UN to research how PE and sport can improve pupils’ happiness

Date 12.11.2015

​The University of Northampton’s Institute of Health and Wellbeing has won a £75,000 research bid to evaluate a groundbreaking new project which aims to change physical activity in secondary schools.

The evaluation will research the PE2020 Active Healthy Minds programme, a pilot scheme which is being pioneered in Northamptonshire before being introduced nationwide. 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 by the University of Northampton.

Led by Northamptonshire County Council, Northamptonshire Sport and charity the Youth Sport Trust, the programme aims to deliver PE and sport in secondary schools in a new and different way; considering pupils’ mental and physical wellbeing in order to have a positive impact on both student achievement and attainment.

Youth Sport Trust Chair Baroness Sue Campbell CBE recently commented: “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.”

The University of Northampton’s Professor Judith Sixsmith is Principal Investigator for the programme. She commented: “We think it’s really important that the health and wellbeing of students in schools is well understood so that we can support them to achieve their potential in and out of school. The Active Healthy Minds initiative and its evaluation will provide solid data on the relationship between physical activity and broader academic, social and life skills which will be critical in helping schools provide nurturing environments for our young people.”

Northamptonshire Director of Public Health and Wellbeing Dr Akeem Ali, recently commented: “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.

Dr Ali continued: “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 University of Northampton’s Dr Florence-Emilie Kinnafick is co-investigator on the evaluation project, along with Dr Nathan Smith. Natasha Bayes is research assistant on the project.