Northamptonshire launches innovative strategy to improve student health and wellbeing

A trailblazing scheme which seeks to transform how schools impact on students' mental wellbeing through PE, sport and physical activity launched in Northamptonshire today.

A trailblazing scheme which seeks to transform how schools impact on students' mental wellbeing through PE, sport and physical activity launched in Northamptonshire today.

The PE2020 Active Healthy Minds programme aims to improve the physical, social and emotional wellbeing of young people aged 11 to 18 across Northamptonshire. From September, Northamptonshire County Council will work in partnership with Northamptonshire Sport and independent charity the Youth Sport Trust on a pioneering approach to delivering PE and sport in secondary schools, to positively impact on student achievement and attainment.

Local school leaders came together at the Northamptonshire Sainsbury's School Games today to hear from industry experts on the pilot programme. Northamptonshire Director of Public Health and Wellbeing Dr Akeem Ali welcomed 50 delegates, explaining that the plans are part of the county council's ongoing commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of children and young people in Northamptonshire.

He said: "We've heard a great deal about how a psychological edge can give top sportspeople an advantage when competing at the highest level but the latest thinking shows that this mental fitness can have advantages in other areas of peoples' lives too.

"What this groundbreaking project will do is work with how mental and physical wellbeing can work together to bring positive outcomes in all areas of young peoples' lives.

"This is an exciting initiative, which if successful, could be rolled out across the rest of the country and I'm delighted to be part of the team which is pioneering the project."

The launch follows an in depth six-month investigation to explore the world of young adolescents by the Youth Sport Trust.

Youth Sport Trust Chair Baroness Sue Campbell CBE said: "The focus of the PE2020 Active Healthy Minds programme is to use the way that PE and sport are taught to improve life skills such as creativity, aspiration, resilience and empathy and develop a culture of wellbeing across schools.

"Today 850,000 children in the country have mental health problems and three children in every classroom have a diagnosable metal health disorder. PE and sport have a unique role to play in the physical and emotional development of children and young people, helping address and deter mental health issues.  

"This is the start of an extremely exciting time for the Youth Sport and I am very grateful to the support of Northamptonshire County Council in bringing this strategy to life. If successful, this programme will become the Youth School Trust's national strategy for PE and sport in secondary schools."

Olympic silver medallist and Youth Sport Trust ambassador Gail Emms MBE was also in attendance at the launch, speaking to delegates of her own experiences.

She said: "Mental health is something which is too often taken for granted. Having experienced some dark moments after retiring, I know and understand the value of nurturing mental wellbeing.

"This programme is a fantastic initiative which seeks to set young people on the right path within the school environment. There is so much more to sport than just physical benefits, and I greatly look forward to following this programme over the next three years."

The programme will run over three academic years (September 2015 to July 2018), involving all secondary schools in the county and is to be independently evaluated.

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