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Why being part of the HAPPEN Network is more important than ever for primary schools in Wales

During these uncertain times, it is crucial to understand and support pupils and staff so that schools can adapt to the challenges faced now and in the months ahead. Even with schools reopened, children and teachers are experiencing the effects of school closures and adapted school practice including social distancing, potential breaks in learning and disruption to routines.

How HAPPEN can help schools understand and support pupil’s wellbeing

The HAPPEN Primary School Network, based at Swansea University, provides schools with a better understanding of pupil’s physical, psychological, emotional and social health to enable everyone to work together to improve child wellbeing and academic achievement.

What do schools need to do?

Pupils in year 4, 5 and 6 are asked to complete the online HAPPEN survey.  The survey focuses on physical and mental health. Once completed, the HAPPEN team send each school an individual report, showing the overall picture of health and wellbeing of that school.

Over 400 primary Schools across Wales are registered as part of the HAPPEN Network.

“We, as a school, cannot emphasise enough how HAPPEN has supported us in our approach to Wellbeing. I think it is pivotal in supporting approaches to teaching and learning.” Jodi Webb-Clements, Eveswell Primary School

COVID focused research

Since lockdown, in addition to producing regular reports to registered schools, HAPPEN carried out research to gain a better understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on the health and wellbeing of primary school pupils and school staff in Wales, to help inform decision making.

Initially, HAPPEN asked primary school pupils (aged 8 – 12) to take part in their ‘HAPPEN at Home Survey’, to understand and identify the impact of lockdown on young people’s health and wellbeing. View a summary of the survey results.

Then, with the phased reopening of schools in June, HAPPEN introduced the ‘Return to School Survey’ to gather opinions of staff on their experiences of returning to school.

The survey was completed by over 200 primary school staff. Due to the timing and rapid response required before school return, a report was produced in August 2020 to relay initial findings and staff views before the return to school. Initial findings indicated that staff felt that children needed to be back in school for their education and social development, but the survey highlighted the number of challenges upon the return to school. This included ensuring support is in place for pupils to reduce gaps in learning as a result of school closures whilst also prioritising pupil and staff health and wellbeing. The findings also included recommendations by staff for return and a blended learning approach such as providing better support for digital learning and clearer guidance and communication with teachers to understand and manage expectations.

The importance of ongoing research

In the latest teacher survey, HAPPEN would like to hear from teaching staff about their experiences and thoughts of returning to school full time during the pandemic.

Running at the same time, the pupil survey looks to measure how pupils are feeling now they are back in school. This can help schools better understand their pupil’s needs for better health and wellbeing.

The latest surveys are available on the HAPPEN website.

Professor Sinead Brophy, Director of NCPHWR and lead researcher at HAPPEN, said: 

“As a Network, we want to continue our support for schools during these unprecedented times.  Our ongoing research, with both pupils and teachers, is giving valuable insights into some of the challenges pupils and schools are facing.  Our findings are reported directly back to schools so that they can understand and take positive steps to help improve the health and wellbeing of the whole school community. As a team, we are also sharing these results with decision-makers here in Wales.”

To find out more about HAPPEN, how to register your school and take part in the surveys visit their website.

HAPPEN aims to bring together education, health and research to help schools have a better understanding of pupil’s physical, psychological, emotional and social health. HAPPEN is part of the National Centre for Population Health and Wellbeing Research (NCPHWR). NCPHWR is funded by the Welsh Government through Health and Care Research Wales.