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Health and wellbeing of children in Wales under the spotlight

4 February 2020

Secondary aged school children in class

Preparations to introduce curriculum changes which put a new emphasis on health and wellbeing will be investigated as part of a Cardiff University study.

Dr Sara Long is leading the research, working with schools, policy officials and other education stakeholders in the run up to reforms which come into place in 2022. For the first time, health and wellbeing will become one of six Areas of Learning and Experience (AoLE) alongside Expressive Arts; Humanities; Languages, Literacy and Communication; Mathematics and Numeracy and Science and Technology. It is hoped this research will be used as a base from which to study the effects of the changes once they come into place.

Dr Long, based in the Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer), said: “School reform has the potential for widespread benefits for pupils, schools and wider society, but it could also lead to unintended consequences. This is why it is important that new policies such as this one are accompanied by good quality evaluations."

This research provides a time-limited opportunity to explore what is happening behind the scenes, and in practice, to prepare schools and children for national school reform. It also provides the opportunity to lay the foundations for a detailed assessment over the following five to 10 years to conduct a major evaluation of the impacts of the new curriculum on pupil health and wellbeing.

Dr Sara Long Research Associate, DECIPHer

Funded by the Welsh Government, the three-year research fellowship is made up of three parts. The first will consist of interviews with teachers and policymakers. These will be used to get an understanding of what people think about the role of schools in health and well-being; what they think the reforms will look like in practice; and provide the start of evidence to show whether the new curriculum has been successful.

Using existing data, part two will measure the health and well-being of pupils being taught the current curriculum. The results can then be compared against pupils who receive the new curriculum in the future.

A group of young people and a group of parents will also be consulted during the study. All of these findings will help inform how the changes are implemented and lay the foundations for further research as the reforms are established.

Dr Long added: “Schools are important settings for early interventions to prevent later physical and mental health problems. Putting the health and wellbeing of children at the heart of the new curriculum is a bold and ambitious step which could transform education for children in Wales. This research takes place during an important period and I’m looking forward to sharing the findings.”

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