South West Healthy Schools Plus is a ground-breaking programme aimed at reducing health inequalities and increasing social inclusion. An event held at the STEAM Museum in early May brought together around 100 Headteachers, teachers and school partners from across Swindon to hear further plans about this exciting new initiative.
The South West recently became the first region in England to pilot the Department of Health’s ‘Healthy Schools Plus’ programme and schools in Swindon are leading the way. More than 90% of local schools have already achieved National Healthy School Status (NHSS), but Swindon’s Healthy Schools Plus initiative will further support local health and education partnerships to develop more targeted health interventions in schools, in order to help address specific health issues, including:
• Sex and Relationship Education
• Teenage Pregnancy
• Emotional Health and Well-being
Pictured helping to launch Healthy Schools Plus from Greendown School, teacher Sophie Heston with Danielle Harding, Chevenell McRae and Jack Berrisford
The programme will initially work with children and young people where health needs are greatest, to help close the gap between those who experience the best and worst of health locally. It will also see schools working more closely with parents, carers and members of the wider community, to better support children and young people throughout Swindon.
A successful anti-bullying scheme at Lainesmead Primary School was the focus of one presentation; it is a project that was shortlisted for the South West Health and Social Care Awards. Delegates also heard from Greendown Community Secondary School, Moredon Primary & Nursery School and Rodbourne Cheney Primary School on their innovative approaches to Sex and Relationship Education. With smoking related deaths in Swindon above the national average, the impact of smoking locally was another hot topic.
Angela Milliken, Swindon’s Healthy Schools Programme Manager, says, “The National Healthy Schools Programme has provided a catalyst for change, but Healthy Schools Plus allows us to go one step further by underlining the commitment to meeting the specific needs and circumstances of children and young people in Swindon. Schools are at the hub of our local communities and can play a vital role in enabling children, young people and their families to make healthier, long-term life choices.
David Pearson, South West Healthy Schools Plus Manager, adds, “Healthy Schools Plus is about embedding clear, measurable improvements in ‘healthier’ behaviour as part of the everyday job schools already do, however, the complexity of the issues being addressed means there are no ‘quick fixes’.
“Take obesity, for instance. Schools alone cannot solve the problem, because 80% of what children and young people eat is eaten outside school, but they do have a leading role in developing local solutions to important health issues, and Healthy Schools Plus will help to make the overall support offered to children and young people in Swindon’s schools even stronger”
Frances Mayes, Acting Head of Health Inequalities, Swindon Primary Care Trust, adds; “Healthy Schools has always been very successful in Swindon and schools have seen the benefits of the initiative. Healthy Schools Plus gives schools the opportunity to focus on one or more of the core key themes to make a significant impact on the health of the whole school community. From my perspective, Healthy Schools Plus gives schools the opportunity to promote emotional health and well-being, such as by working towards the anti-bullying accreditation scheme which will help children build mental capacity which they can carry with them throughout their lives.”
As the first initiative of its kind anywhere in England, the South West Healthy Schools Plus programme will help inform future developments to the direction of the National Healthy Schools Programme nationwide.