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Schools should appoint heads of well-being, charity says

Secondary schools should create a “head of well-being” post to combat poor physical and mental health among students and staff, it has been suggested. A study by thinktank 2020health and charity Nuffield Health found that creating such a role could improve exercise levels, reduce obesity and boost emotional health. Nuffield Health will fund the first pilot of a head of well-being at a UK secondary school from September. 2020health has compiled figures showing that three out of four young people living with mental illnesses go undiagnosed, and a similar number of teachers feel the job has a negative impact on their health.

The report calls for schools to regularly measure pupil well-being and to give teachers additional training to help them spot the warning signs of mental illness in young people. The study also found that a head of well-being could raise parents' awareness of the importance of their children doing physical activity and eating a balanced diet. David Mobbs, Nuffield Health's chief executive, said: "We are calling on secondary schools across the country to sit up and take note of the well-being of their staff and pupils. "The issue of well-being within schools has been largely overlooked up until now. The head of well-being role will provide much-needed support to headteachers to engage with pupils and staff, not just about physical well-being but also emotional well-being."

The pilot will include the development of a well-being strategy focusing on children, teachers and parents. A competition will be held to determine which school will host the pilot, which will involve Nuffield Health offering teachers a 12-point health check-up. It will also introduce a new children's check-up focusing on nutrition, exercise and emotional well-being. Julia Manning, chief executive of 2020health, said: "The 2020health report highlights the potential positive outcomes that can be gained in employing a head of well-being. "In theory, it can help to address the underlying issues that affect staff and pupils' well-being on a daily basis." Dr Sarah Wollaston, who chairs the Health Select Committee, said: "I welcome this thoughtful report and support the proposal to pilot heads of well-being within secondary schools and to explore their potential to improve well-being across the whole school community."

Related stories: 

Ofsted: Schools are not doing enough to tackle obesity – 17 October 2014 

Is it a school's duty to ensure students' moral and spiritual well-being? – 10 July 2014

Students’ stress is a ‘mental health time bomb’, charity warns – 20 January 2014

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