New project to understand and improve wellbeing of school pupils in Greater Manchester

Experts from The University of Manchester are set to work with leaders from Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and all of the city-region’s secondary schools on a major new project that will survey children about their wellbeing and preparedness for life beyond school, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This pioneering project – the first in the UK which seeks to cover all secondary schools in a city-region – will ask pupils about aspects of their lives that influence their wellbeing and will provide valuable insights and information for school leaders, charities, businesses and other local actors, and policy-makers to provide appropriate support services and make immediate improvements.

The project will be led by the Manchester Institute of Education at The University of Manchester, in partnership with the Anna Freud Centre, a world leading mental health charity for children and families.

The Greater Manchester Young People’s Wellbeing Programme came about after David Gregson, a businessman, philanthropist, and graduate of the University, who is involved in many national sports and charitable organisations, contacted the University in 2019, looking to collaborate on a project to address his deep concerns about the wellbeing of young people in the UK.

The Programme, which will gather data from tens of thousands of young people, will deliver aggregated, anonymised feedback to schools in an accessible format through a ‘dynamic online data dashboard’, which will enable teachers and leaders to use it as part of a continuous cycle of improvement. Participating schools will also be supported by the Child Outcomes Research Consortium (CORC) to use the feedback to plan and evaluate their provision (for example, identifying vulnerable groups and implementing evidence-based interventions to support them).

In addition, the project leaders will use the data gathered to provide evidence briefings for key stakeholders to inform further local and national governmental support for young people’s wellbeing. This is a key policy priority for the GMCA, who have been undertaking a Life Readiness survey with Year 10 pupils for several years, which will be integrated into this project when it begins.

Over the coming months, the project team will work with teachers and young people, as well as Local Authorities, local businesses, academics, charities, the GM Health and Social Care Partnership and many others, to get their input on the design of the Programme. After Easter, secondary schools across the GM city-region will be approached to participate, and the first wave of survey data will then be collected from pupils in Years 8 and 10 in the autumn.

“The most recent UNICEF research has shown just how far Britain lags behind our European peers in child wellbeing – the very best countries, such as in Scandinavia and the Netherlands, rank consistently highly across all health and wellbeing domains,” said Professor Sir Michael Marmot, one of the world’s leading health and wellbeing inequalities experts. “As we in Britain seek to Build Back Fairer, I am delighted to support this vital work in Greater Manchester to truly understand the issues affecting adolescent’s lives – and then do something about it.”

“This Programme is absolutely essential if we are to truly capture the right intelligence around wellbeing needs of young people as part of Young Person’s Guarantee, and ensure that more of them feel hopeful, optimistic and supported as they move through school, prepare for adulthood, and transition into the world of further education, training and employment,” said Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester.

Professor Jessica Deighton of the Anna Freud Centre, which is the project partner, adds:”At the Anna Freud Centre we know how much schools and local decision makers need good evidence to provide the best possible mental health and wellbeing support for their pupils. We are looking forward, with our colleagues at CORC, to supporting schools to take action based on a clear understanding of the strengths and needs of pupils in this difficult period.”

“Our intention is that this Programme will, in the years to come, lead to greater national focus, based on evidence, on young people’s wellbeing,” said David Gregson. “We have raised two thirds of the funds required to make the Programme a reality – from the University, my own family foundation and the Holroyd Foundation – and will be raising the balance in the coming months. Our nation’s children deserve nothing less than the evidence and support that this Programme will provide.”

“I am delighted that the University is providing the research leadership and significant financial support to ensure that this pioneering project will be a success, and will make a positive difference to the wellbeing and lives of young people across Greater Manchester,” said Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice Chancellor of The University of Manchester.

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