Healthy Minds Research Project

Starting as a research project by the London School of Economics and Bounce Forward into the ultimate secondary school PSHE curriculum, Healthy Minds was funded by the Education Endowment Foundation and trialled in 34 schools over 5 years. This unique study helps us understand the impact that good quality teaching and learning can have on important outcomes, and how to create a culture of resilience where teachers and students thrive.

The mission

More and more we worry about the mental health of our teenagers. As surveys show, their emotional health is worsening. And their behavioural problems are increasing.

These are problems that schools can influence. For schools make almost as much difference to the emotional health and behaviour of their students as to their academic achievement. So how can schools do better for their wellbeing?

While young people’s life skills are strongly influenced by the ethos of the school, there also needs to be at least one hour a week of dedicated and specific teaching of life skills. But at present schools lack the means to teach life skills in a fully professional way.

 

The solution

To remedy this, researchers from the London School of Economics scoured the world for the best well-tested materials for teaching secondary school pupils in:

  • Resilience
  • Social and emotional learning
  • Relationships and sex education
  • Healthy habits
  • Social media awareness
  • Mental illness
  • Parenting
  • Mindfulness

From this research Bounce Forward constructed a four-year curriculum for years 7-10, consisting of weekly lessons of one hour each. For each lesson there are dedicated teaching materials, written advice to teachers on how to use them, and dedicated teacher training. The whole course reflects the teachings of “positive psychology”: it focuses on building strengths rather than attacking weaknesses, and on what is worth doing rather than on what to avoid.

The structure of the course is shown in the diagram below. No such programme on this scale has ever been tested in the world. These are difficult and delicate subjects to teach. Many earlier programmes have failed due to lack of teacher training. So one key feature of the course is that the teachers have to be trained for five days before teaching each year of the course.

In devising the curriculum, we had high ambitions – of supplying what teachers all over the world have been looking for. But this could only be verified by a ‘randomised controlled trial’.

 

Trial

Click sections to reveal more.

  • Sample schools

    The final curriculum and the trial were organised by Bounce Forward. Our first task was to find 34 state schools, largely in deprived areas, that wanted to teach the programme – several schools large enough to give reliable estimates of the effects of the course. The schools were then randomly divided into two groups. 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.

  • Control group

    Each group taught the course over the full four years to one whole cohort of entrants to the school and measured the wellbeing of the students before and after the course. But 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.

  • Data 

    To help assess the impact of the course, students 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 could be tracked by comparing the results of the pupils who took the programme with those who did not – assuming that both groups would have followed the same wellbeing trajectory if neither group had taken the programme.

  • Outcomes

    In reporting the effects of the course, we focus 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, we look at 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 at capture various dimensions of physical health, emotional health and behaviour.

  • Feedback

    The schools reported enormous enthusiasm from staff and students alike, and all the schools have gone on teaching Healthy Minds to each subsequent year’s entry to school – a real vote of confidence.

Results

These results include the effects on every group of students 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.

The trial showed that the course works. This shows how far an average pupil has increased their percentage ranking as a result of the course when compared with other pupils nationwide.

Listen to what experts, students and teachers have to say

 

Bounce Forward have worked with teachers and experts to turn Healthy Minds into a practical solution that is now available to all schools

Get in touch for more information and a bespoke quote

“Young people need Healthy Minds and schools should make it a top priority. It’s the most outstanding wellbeing curriculum in the world!” 

Lord Richard Layard

London School of Economics

Funded by the Education Endowment Foundation 

No such programme on this scale has ever been tested in the world

“Maths, English and Science help me succeed in school. Healthy Minds helps me thrive in life.”

Student 

Chancellor’s School

All 34 schools involved in the Healthy Mind’s trial have continued with the curriculum

Bounce Forward have worked with teachers and experts to turn Healthy Minds into a practical solution that is now available to all schools

Get in touch for more information and a bespoke quote

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