Further evidence of Project HE:RO’s Impact

By John Bishop, Managing Director, Evolve 
Following the independent evaluation of Project HE:RO last year in four Keighley schools which was commissioned by Bradford Public Health, we were keen to understand the impact of our Health Mentors in all schools across the country which are currently being supported.
Therefore, we commissioned the education and youth think and action-tank “LKMco” to review the impact that Project HE:RO has on targeted pupils in primary schools where it is currently active. LKMco analysed impact data collected in 114 schools by 81 Health Mentors and also conducted six school visits to gather qualitative case study information. This report is published today and we are extremely pleased with the results that it has found.

Evolve Health Mentors are deployed in primary schools to improve the educational outcomes of pupils by focussing on their health, wellbeing and personal development. The report shows that Health Mentors are clearly making a difference across a wide range of impact areas.
One of the most striking results found is the improvement in the emotional wellbeing of pupils who were supported for the full academic year.   45% of pupils indicated that their life had improved from the start of the year to the end of the year.  At a time when the mental health of children is so much under the spotlight, it is reassuring to know that solutions do exist which are being accessed by schools.
Positive results like this were similarly found with increased levels of confidence and physical activity; improvements in diet and good behaviour; and fewer children reported that they were being bullied as the year progressed.
A key observation from the report is that with any intervention like this, it is all about the long game and not simply about quick fixes. The data shows that it takes at least 12 weeks for noticeable improvements to be seen. This coincides with the amount of time needed to develop the all-important rapport with pupils, many of whom are extremely vulnerable and face significant issues outside the school environment that influence their educational performance.
It is clear from this report that Health Mentors have the greatest impact on pupil outcomes when schools deploy them consistently and in a variety of different environments, such as in the classroom, at lunchtime, during after school activities and through mentoring workshops. This versatility is a strength of both Project HE:RO and its Health Mentors and is the result of a holistic programme approach and the multidisciplinary nature of its accredited level 4 staff training programme.
Furthermore, the study found that partnerships with other school staff are key, especially when the Health Mentor is not based at the school full time.  This is an important lesson for all interventions and the reason why teachers should play an active role within all enrichment programmes.
The report has also reinforced the impact that children’s home lives have on their educational performance and wider development.  Working with parents is an area we have already started to develop with parental health and wellbeing trials piloted in our West Midlands region in 2015/16.  Additionally, the nature of Evolve’s XLR8 work during school holidays can help to forge that challenging link between parents and schools which is why we will be focussing so heavily on it during the coming weeks and months.
Although the absence of a control group or comparative data makes it difficult to conclusively attribute changes to Project HE:RO, baseline and endpoint data, together with case study information supports the view that Evolve Health Mentors have a positive impact across a range of pupil outcomes.
We have already adapted Project HE:RO to incorporate all recommendations contained within the report into this year’s programme.  Crucially, this shows how evaluation data is not just essential for funding or bureaucratic reasons but it can also help organisations to improve their practice to ensure that they are always delivering the best possible outcomes for their beneficiaries.
View the full report here