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Wellbeing survey participation is paying off for students at Churchill Special Free School in Haverhill

A Haverhill school has benefited so much from being part of a two-year study of children and young people's mental health and emotional wellbeing that it is now re-writing part of its curriculum.

The My Health, Our Future project was undertaken by Healthwatch Suffolk, which recorded almost 14,000 responses from 11 to19-year-olds from a number of different schools in the county, including the Churchill Special Free School in Chalkstone Way.

The subsequent report into the findings covers a range of topics, including wellbeing, social media, screen time, self-esteem, body image, self-harm, cyberbullying, sleep, sexual health, mental health education, seeking support plus drugs and alcohol.

Churchill Special Free School is benefiting from the findings of a survey into mental health and emotional wellbeing. Pictured: Head Teacher Georgina Ellis with some pupils. Picture by Mecha Morton.
Churchill Special Free School is benefiting from the findings of a survey into mental health and emotional wellbeing. Pictured: Head Teacher Georgina Ellis with some pupils. Picture by Mecha Morton.

The report also highlights various impactful, powerful and emotive quotes from children and young people that offer a genuine insight into the reasons behind these worrying statistics.

This includes young people’s experiences online and the way in which their relationships with others impact upon their emotional wellbeing.

The head teacher at Churchill, Georgiina Ellis, saidhe findings of the survey and the contents of the bespoke report compiled for the school, has helped it to change its PSHE (Personal. Social, Health and Education) curriculum to better suit its students' needs.

Mrs Ellis said: "We analysed our report and looked at which areas we felt we need to enhance in our PSHE curriculum and what we are in the process of doing is re-writing our entire scheme to work to to reflect what our children are saying through the survey that they need.

"Alongside that we are working towards a wellbeing accreditation, so the three things have linked in really well."

The study has shown, added Mrs Ellis, how issues such as having a poor body image, the amount of online use and sleep among her students were consistent with those found at mainstream schools.

Andy Yacoub (chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk) said: “With the support of health and care leaders, schools and local community and statutory organisations behind us, we have highlighted why involving young people in discussions about what could be different is so important.

“The very fact that we have been invited to complete this work year on year shows that the wellbeing of our children and young people is being taken seriously by those with the power to bring about improvements to local support.

"With that considered, our findings show how essential it is that action continues to be taken to tackle the root causes of the problems children and young people face with their wellbeing and to support their mental health inside and outside of school. "Ultimately, the aim must be to help our young people to become more resilient.

“This is particularly true of young people who identify as LGBTQ+ or as a gender other than male or female.

"We know from our data that, when compared to their non-LGBTQ+peers, LGBTQ+ young people experience lower levels of wellbeing, self-harm more, get bullied the most and face more challenges in school.

"Addressing these concerns and developing a better offer of local support is very much a part of our ongoing conversations with commissioners and we hope to see improvements as a result.

"Some black and minority ethnic (BAME) also reflect lower than average levels of emotional wellbeing across a number of themes.

“More generally, we are aware of, and have been privileged to influence, the development of new plans to bring about a better availability of help and support for young people across the county.

"We applaud the continued drive by our local system leaders in health and schools to develop better support in co-production with children, young people, their families and teachers/staff.

"We are confident that this will lead to a better future for young people in Suffolk.”

Beth Mosley (Clinical Psychologist and Project Lead for the West Suffolk Delivering Mental Health in

Schools Project) said: “It has been invaluable participating in the My Health, Our Future survey.

We have been able to capture really useful information to help support our students as a whole group, in terms of understanding their collective emotional wellbeing needs; and how we can ensure we are providing a PSHE program that meets these needs.

“Furthermore, it has also identified pockets of students who may need more tailored support in school.

Taking part in this survey presents a great opportunity for schools talk more openly about mental health as well as providing vital information about the school population.

The resulting report was presented in an easy to read format and we look forward to participating again this year.”

Sara Blake (Assistant Director Transformation Children Services for Ipswich and East and West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group and Suffolk County Council) said:“This My Health Our Future report gives an important insight into the emotional wellbeing issues facing our young people on a day to day basis.

“We want every young person in Suffolk to have the very best start in life and we know that the earlier a young person can access the help they need, the greater chance they have of going on to live a happy and healthy adult life.

“Alongside the work of #AVeryDifferentConversation, which over the last year has seen the development of a plan which aims to transform mental health services locally, My Health Our Future is another significant source of information to support the effective commissioning of services.

“We are grateful to the input given by the young people involved and the work of Healthwatch Suffolk.”

The “My Health Our Future” report is commissioned by the Suffolk Children’s Emotional Wellbeing Group, which oversees the delivery of the Children and Young People’s Emotional Wellbeing Transformation Plan.

Some of the findings from this year include that:

n 14% of children and young people are currently, or have previously self-harmed. 14% said they would rather not say. Of those who said they have self-harmed, 63% are female.

n A quarter of female students aged 16 say they have self-harmed and 50% of those who do not identify as male or female have self-harmed.

n 38 %of young people spend over four hours each day on social media. Almost half of female students had used social media as a way of escaping from negative feelings.

n 12% of young people had been bullied online within the last two months. The rate of online bullying was four times higher for those who are ‘limited a lot’ by a disability.

n More than half of girls and just under a quarter of boys worry about their body image “most or all of the time.” For girls age 16, over two thirds worry about their body image most or all of the time and, on average, those who worry about their body image had a lower wellbeing score compared to those who don’t worry about their body image.

n 28% have low self-esteem and the main reason for this was not liking the way they look.

n 39% said they had tried drugs or alcohol and 23% said it had led to a situation they now regret.

n 40% of children and young people spend most of their evenings alone in their rooms.

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