- Posted by Ellie Wilde
- On 22nd September 2020
We are pleased to share findings from the latest independent evaluation of Evolve’s work, which was conducted by Simetrica Jacobs and was commissioned by the Health Foundation.
This latest ‘Healthy Brains’ research follows previous evaluations by Leeds Beckett University (2015) and The Centre for Education & Youth (2016). These reports both indicated the effectiveness of Evolve’s Health Mentor workforce delivering our flagship programme for primary schools – Project HE:RO. However, neither of these studies involved control schools or pupils, and these comparisons were a key feature of our continued learning and development plan as an outcomes-focused organisation.
A New Approach to Cognitive Health
Project HE:RO is a programme that is delivered by Health Mentors who are placed in schools for between one and five days per week for a minimum duration of one academic year. Health Mentors work with targeted cohorts of pupils who are at risk of not progressing academically; for reasons that may include mental ill health, lacking in confidence and disruptive classroom behaviour.
Through Project HE:RO, Evolve has shown how addressing these health and wellbeing issues can remove barriers to learning and improve the climate, culture and effectiveness of primary schools.
The Health Foundation wanted to use this project to examine the impact of an upstream public health intervention embedded within the education system. It was also keen to explore the impact of a holistic wellbeing programme on the brain health and cognitive performance of a child population.
Simetrica Jacobs was selected to conduct the independent research due to their expertise in social value analysis, wellbeing research and econometrics. They also have lots of relevant experience in this field through their work with the Departments of Health; Digital, Culture, Media and Sport; and Work and Pensions.
Key Findings from the Healthy Brains Research
The research focused on Project HE:RO in seven schools in different parts of the UK. It used comparable data from three control schools that were matched for key characteristics and demographics. The data used in this study was taken from Evolve’s impact assessment tool (The Wellbeing Compass) and brain health assessment software provided by Stronger Brains. The analysis took place across the full 2018/19 academic year and included individual results from 1,246 pupils.
Key findings about Project HE:RO impact:
- Project HE:RO was found to significantly increase the wellbeing of participating pupils during the school year.
- The wellbeing of participating pupils was significantly lower than the rest of the school population at the start of the year but they caught up almost entirely by the summer break.
- Project HE:RO also increases the wellbeing of pupils who are not enrolled on the programme who benefited from spill-over effects.
- Furthermore, these spill-over effects increase with the number of days the Health Mentors spend in the school.
- Comprehensive cognitive improvements are also associated with Project HE:RO in terms of executive function, processing speed, attention and working memory.
We are encouraged by these results but still have a long way to go in terms of furthering the evidence base for our work. In particular, we would like to increase the sample size of children participating in our latest innovation that supports children presenting more severe behavioural challenges – The Engine Room. Also, we want to evaluate the effectiveness of including digital brain training exercises alongside our therapeutic mentoring model, to further enhance learning readiness and the impact of classroom teaching.
Catching Up On Learning After Covid-19 Lockdown
At a time of so much uncertainty and heightened anxiety in schools as a result of Covid-19, we know that children have a lot of catching up to do as a result of lost learning time and the impact that recent events have had on their wellbeing. Most schools are implementing a recovery curriculum and giving their pupils the opportunity to settle back in and start socialising again.
The Healthy Brains report helps to demonstrate the need for this important readiness work in order to prepare all children to re-engage with their learning. We welcome the opportunity to support local authorities, academy trusts and individual schools with their recovery and catch up plans and to share further insights from this important evaluation. Contact us to find out how we can work together to build healthier brains and help children catch up.
Read the entire Healthy Brains report: Download here