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The challenge of closing the gap

As Assistant Headteacher responsible for achievement across the school and pupil premium, a big part of my job is to look into ways of closing the gap between students who come from a disadvantaged background and their peers. We have invested in many initiatives across the school and most recently we worked with a social enterprise called Young Happy Minds, whose vision is to work with schools to put wellbeing at the heart of Education.

As well as being concerned about closing the gap, we are also acutely aware of the rising stats of mental health issues for young people in the UK and with the average onset age for depression now at 14 yrs, we were looking for a programme that could provide some interventions promoting positive mental health. More and more of our students are suffering with anxiety related to exam pressure and we were impressed with the offering from Young Happy Minds as they take a preventative approach; their programmes are deeply experiential and unlike anything else we had found previously.

How does the programme work?

The Roots and Wings programme that Young Happy Minds delivered in Autumn 2015 lasted for 10 weeks and was delivered to 30 Year 9 students, most of whom qualified for pupil premium. During the programme, students learnt practical tools and techniques to improve their own happiness and wellbeing, from the field of positive psychology, that has been thoroughly researched. Students learnt how to cultivate more positive emotions through various exercises; like writing a gratitude diary each day, reframing and mindfulness, and how that can increase their creativity and concentration. They learnt about their own character strengths, positive failure and how to set self concordant goals. They also learnt how to deal with life’s challenges, live a life of meaning and purpose, strengthen relationships and strive for their dreams.

What Was The Impact?

Students who went through the programme were measured against a control group before and after the 10 weeks using a wellbeing measure tool developed by NPC* (New Philanthropy Capital)

The students who went through the programme showed an increase before and after the programme of:

• 20% in overall life satisfaction • 14% in self esteem • 12% in emotional wellbeing • 12% in resilience

The control group showed no changes in their scores.

These are fantastic results in themselves and coupled with the strong and growing evidence demonstrating that increased wellbeing of students positively affects achievement**, we can confidently say that this has been a very worthwhile intervention in closing the gap. Many of the students have already reported an increase in academic performance due to having more of a growth mindset and improved levels of self-esteem and overall happiness.

The Next Steps

Lampton students are now acting as Young Ambassadors for Young Happy Minds to spread what they have learnt throughout the school by for example, writing for the school newspaper, carrying out experiments within the school to promote random acts of kindness and reframing anti-bullying week to a more positive kindness week.

From September, we will be running more programmes with students in Year 9 and above and staff are also being given tips and techniques for promoting positive wellbeing in their lessons and the opportunity to be trained to deliver the Young Happy Minds 10 week Roots and Wings programme, which a much more sustainable model for the school going forwards.


* New Philanthropy Capital's Well-being Measure is an online survey-based tool that measures how children feel and has been fully validated.

**Source: Research by Martin Seligman (Strath Haven), L. Gutman (The Impact of Pupil Behaviour and Wellbeing on Educational Outcomes) and Public Health England (The link between pupil health and wellbeing and attainment)

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