Healthy Minds is a unique research project that is contributing to our understanding of how students can be supported to develop emotional resilience and self efficacy alongside their academic development.
Worldwide research into evidenced based approaches that meet the UK, PSHE requirement commissioned by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation suggested a model curriculum for secondary schools. Bounce Forward, in partnership with the London School of Economics (LSE), secured funding from the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) to test and evidence the model using the title Healthy Minds.
The Healthy Minds trial was organised by Bounce Forward, a national charity that specialises in practical resilience training for schools. Their first task was to find 34 state schools, that wanted to teach the programme – a number of schools large enough to give reliable estimates of the effects of the course. The schools were then randomly divided into two groups.
Each group taught the curriculum (the treatment) over the full four years to one whole cohort of entrants to the school, and measured the wellbeing of the pupils before and after the course. One group of schools started one year later than the other, and that group of schools also measured the wellbeing of the pupils in the previous year’s entry – thus providing a control group that could be compared with all the pupils who were taught Healthy Minds. Academic attainment is being looked at separately with results analysed by National Institute of Economic and Social Research and expected in 2020.
The schools were drawn from a wide range of local authorities from Wolverhampton to Kent, and the trial ran from 2013 to 2017 or 2014 to 2018, depending on when the school joined the experiment. The schools reported enormous enthusiasm from staff and pupils alike, and all the schools have gone on teaching Healthy Minds to each subsequent year’s entry to school – a real vote of confidence.
To assess the impact, pupils completed a detailed questionnaire on their wellbeing before the course began and the same questionnaire again at the end of the course four years later. So the effects can be tracked by comparing the results of the pupils who took the lessons with those who did not – assuming that both groups would have followed the same wellbeing trajectory if neither group had taken the programme.
In reporting the effects of the course the focus is on five outcomes. The first is ‘global health’, which was the primary outcome named before the trial began. This is captured by asking pupils ‘In general, how would you say your health is?’Next is the most commonly used measure of wellbeing worldwide, which is life satisfaction: ‘Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?’ The other three outcomes are created from twelve questions that capture various dimensions of physical health, emotional health and behaviour.
The trial showed that the course works. The results are shown in the figure above, shows how far an average pupil has increased her percentage ranking as a result of the course when compared with other pupils nationwide. In the primary outcome (global health) pupils who took the course improved their ranking by 10 percentiles (out of 100) – a substantial increase. The results for the more detailed set of questions on physical health were similar. Life satisfaction increased by 6 percentiles, which is similar to the effect on life satisfaction when an adult finds a partner.
It is interesting to note that at the mid-way point there is a negative effect on emotional health. Healthy Minds encourages pupil’s to explore and understand positive and negative emotions as natural and not necessarily bad, and so recognising they are feeling sad, or anxious increases half way through. What’s important though, is what they do about it (externalising behaviour) which is shown as having a positive effect at the mid-way point. It did also turn into a positive effect (although not statistically significant, due numbers of pupils in the study) by the end.
These results include the effects on every group of pupils that a school signed up to teach, whether they were well or badly taught, or occasionally not taught consistently throughout.. These are the effects after four years of teaching, and incorporate results measured on average two years after the material was taught.
Download the full report here.