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Promoting Healthy Minds in schools

Healthy Minds is a unique curriculum that redefines personal, social and health education in secondary schools. It aims to develop emotional resilience and self-efficacy in students. The London School of Economic and the charity Bounce Forward have collaborated to pilot the curriculum in 32 Secondary schools. This short film looks at the results.



[Caption: Healthy Minds is a unique curriculum that redfines personal, social and health education (PHSE)].

[Caption: The London School of Economics and Political Science and the charity Bounce Forward have piloted the curriculum in 32 secondary schools].

[Caption: Healthy Minds aims to develop emotional resilience and self-efficacy in students].

Dr Grace Lordan (Associate Professor of Behavioural Science at LSE):

Typically UK schools will do what we call non-standardised PHSE.

[Caption: "PHSE is a non-statutory subject. To allow teachers the flexibility to deliver high-quality PSHE we consider it unnecessary to provide new standardised frameworks or programmes of study." (Department for Education, 2013)].

That really leaves it up to schools to do what they like. It is recommended that there will be some sex education, but once that's fulfilled the hour can be filled with any other activities that the teacher may actually want.

Healthy Minds brings to it a structure, like we traditionally see for Maths, English, Languages and the Science subjects.

We're particularly excited about this programme because economists have known for a number of years now that soft skills - character and health - leave a 'Long Arm' on adult outcomes, including, traditional labour force outcomes, income, educational attainment, and also things not related to the labour market, such as marriage, and whether or not people decide to have children.

[Caption: The Leigh Academy in Kent is one of the schools piloting Healthy Minds].

[Caption: The curriculum has helped Leigh Academy support young people's mental health needs].

Mr Stuart Linders (Head of Darwin College):

We've seen an increase in the amount of students that are self-harming, that dealing with anxiety, with stress eating disorders.

And with the reduction in available funding for outside agencies to come and help us, delivering the Healthy Minds course to students allow students to gain a better understanding of what the problems are out there in society.

Mrs Julia Collins (Academy Principle):

Rather than piecemeal approach, the Healthy Minds programme sort of sets programs and agendas whereby staff are trained and students follow a very clear programme throughout the year or throughout the sort of the key stage.

Mr Stuart Linders:

The Healthy Minds curriculum is very diverse. From year 7 where we offer the PIM resilience programme; we're looking at mindfulness as part of Breathe. And then the progression of that into year 8, when we're looking at things like 'From school to life', or looking at relationships, looking at the unplugged course to do with drugs/ alcohol awareness. And all of those courses are very relevant in today's modern school society.

Amrita Kaur (Year 11 student):

Over the last 5 years this treatment group of Healthy Minds has really helped our year. Specifically, we understand each other's feelings better, we understand situations a lot more in depth rather than what it is on the surface.

Charlie Burn (Year 8 student):

I've been resilient by coping, as last year my mum died and I have coped through it. And Healthy Minds have helped me because it showed me how to act and how to overcome obstacles. Because I used to go to her all the time, it was hard to find someone to trust.

Noah Joseph (Year 11 student):

It's made me a calmer person. I don't catastrophize as much anymore. I was probably quite snappy to make decisions in the past. I feel like it's helped me to slow down, assess the situation.

Dr Grace Lordan:

We think of the outcomes of Healthy minds in 3 different buckets.

So you have traditional health outcomes, that's the child's physical health and whether or not they're feeling well and are able to go about their daily activities.

The second one is internalizing behaviour. And that's how I feel inside myself, my emotional responses. So when something happens to me, how I react and how much anxiety it fills me with.

And the third is my externalizing behaviours, so whether or not I tend to lash out.

The results of healthy minds are very promising.

[Caption: Percentile gain as a result of Healthy Minds - Global Health (+10%), Life Satisfaction (+6%), Physical Health (+9%), Behaviour (+6%), Emotional Health (+3%).]

So for all 3 outcomes we have positive effects, with the effects being substantive and statistically significant for physical health and externalizing behavior.

Mrs Julia Collins:

If we look at academic achievement, if we look at number of exclusions, if we look at attendance, there is a difference between the group of students who've had the programme for 5 years and the group of students who have not.

Mr Stuart Linders:

We know that students who have taken part in the course tend to be the more supportive of our vulnerable students. And we've seen so many better relationships, not only among the students, but also between staff and students.

Joshua Payne (Year 8 student):

I've learned how to act differently in lessons. It taught me to be - if I might say - more mature. If you was in a secondary school without Healthy Minds, the bullying rate would be so much higher, whereas at The Leigh [Academy] it's quite low, which I'm pleased about.

Abigail Jones (Year 11 student):

'Parents under construction' has really helped me in Healthy Minds, because it helped me reevaluate when I wanted to have children. Before I was thinking about have them quite young. It helped me realise one of the biggest factors of having a child is financial stability. Whether you want to argue over whether it's about love or not, financial stability is a really strong factor. The teenage birthrate in Dartford is extremely high. I don't want to add to that.

And with 'School to life' it's really helped me, especially with stuff that's going on at home. Sometimes I forget where I want to end up and I get distracted from my goals. But those goals that I set - back in year 8 I think, when you're 11 - I sometimes reflect on them when I feel like I'm being dragged down by things going on around me.
And it really helps to push me into the direction I want. It gives me a boost of determination.

Mr Stuart Linders:

In terms of myself, I think what I've learned over the last few years is to really value relationships. Actually, it's important as an educator that I'm able to be a role model for my students, that they can come to me and talk to me openly about any of the stresses or issues that they have in their own lives.

Dr Grace Lordan:

What we're hoping is that healthy minds will become statutory on the curriculum for children in the UK.

At the moment it isn't. And you can imagine that coming up to GCSE levels there is crowd-out, where Maths lessons might push out Healthy Minds, which is seen at the moment, unfortunately, as something that's less worthwhile.

Mrs Julia Collins:

It could be applicable to any school. All students would benefit from having a consistent approach to the pastoral/ social/ health needs. And I can't see that any school wouldn't benefit from it, because all children need that kind of education.

Dr Grace Lordan:

I am studying the fourth Industrial Revolution. I'm interested in the type of skills that are going to still be needed in a decade's time, given what's coming on stream from patents and from big firms. And these skills, people skills/ character skills, are absolutely what is going to be needed by children.

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