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Healthier pupils; better learners.


There are many ways to define wellbeing: For the purposes of our work, we define ‘wellbeing’ as referenced in the widely accepted World Health Organisation definition of mental health: “Mental health is defined as a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

It is widely recognised that a child’s emotional health and wellbeing influences their cognitive development and learning, as well as their physical and social health and their mental wellbeing in adulthood. (Promoting children and young people’s emotional health and wellbeing: A whole school and college approach, Public Health England, March 2015)

The Department for Education (DfE) recognises that: “in order to help their pupils succeed; schools have a role to play in supporting them to be resilient and mentally healthy”. There is good evidence to support this assertion and Ofsted has highlighted that children and young people themselves say that they want to learn more about how to keep themselves emotionally healthy. Moreover schools have a duty to promote the wellbeing of students.

In an average class of 30 15-year-old pupils:

  • three could have a mental disorder 
  • ten are likely to have witnessed their parents separate
  • one could have experienced the death of a parent
  • seven are likely to have been bullied
  • six may be self-harming

Emotional resilience is a key characteristic identified within the national child poverty strategy that makes it harder for some poor children to do well at school.

Resilience and Emotional Wellbeing at the heart of Healthy Schools

Cornwall Healthy Schools work is linked to local and national health priorities as these are the areas where we feel we can have the most impact on children and young people's health and wellbeing. In addition, they provide a link to the Government's Public Health Outcomes Framework and the wider Wellbeing and Public Health agenda in Cornwall.

“Resilience refers to the ability to continue to develop in difficult circumstances: to face, overcome and ultimately be strengthened by life’s adversities and challenges.”

National Children’s Bureau, 2015

We support resilience building through our work on Mental HealthEmotional Health and Wellbeing and skills and support to help reduce risk-taking behaviour (Personal, Social and Health Education

In particular, our Resilience and Self-Esteem Toolkit programme (ReSET) includes complementing and supporting work already happening in schools, and to provide teachers and support staff with further ideas and materials to develop children’s awareness of emotions, in themselves and others, build positive self-esteem and help strengthen their emotional resilience by exploring coping strategies which work for them.  

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Healthier Lifestyles 

There was a time when most people led lives that kept them at a healthy weight. Pupils walked or cycled to and from school every day and played out for hours on end outside of that time. Meals were home-cooked and there was always a vegetable on the plate. Eating ‘junk food’ was rare as were sugary soft drinks and snacks.

Today, our children experience a very different lifestyle. Walking to school isn't always possible, particularly in our rural communities. ‘Screen time’ often replaces physical activity, especially ‘playing out’. Parents are busier than ever and families eat fewer home-cooked meals and often lack skills and confidence to cook from scratch. Fast food and snacking between meals is now common. Partly as a result, we have become increasingly overweight as a nation with implications for our health and our health services. The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) shows that in Cornwall in 2016 - 17:

  • 1 in 4 (23.1%) children in Reception year are overweight or obese.
  • 1 in 3 (30%) children in Year 6 are overweight or obese.

At the same time, the percentage of adults aged 18+ in Cornwall who are classified as overweight or obese is 64.3%.

Our current generation of children and young people are the first ever to have a life expectancy 5 years less than that of their parents. So it’s time to make a change to our food and physical activity habits, and schools have an important role to play in helping children lead healthier lives.

We support healthier lifestyles through our work on Food and Nutrition and Physical Activity

Our colleagues in the Cornwall Healthy Weight team offer programmes to support children, young people and their families with weight management, healthy eating and physical activity.

Staff Wellbeing 

Happy, healthy children do better in school but they need happy, healthy staff to help them thrive. Staff wellbeing is a major concern for schools and we are proud to support this.  Take a look at our Staff Wellbeing page for more information about our free training for school staff, alongside other signposting and support.