Warwickshire - Encouraging healthy lifestyle

Warwickshire has a school health and wellbeing service which incorporates school nurses and a healthy lifestyle team. Between them they take a holistic approach to supporting children and their families to eat healthily and exercising regularly. This case study showcases the important role of school nurses in the education system.

After-school healthy lifestyle clubs

The school health and wellbeing service, called Connect for Health, is run by Compass. Alongside the school nurses there is a range of skill mixes, including a five-strong Change Makers team, which runs a healthy weight management programme.  

Children identified as being overweight through the National Child Measurement Programme or by school nurses as part of their everyday work and health assessments are offered places on the seven-week Change Makers programme.  

The programme involves a series of after-school clubs for children and their families. The clubs cover a wide range of topics from portion sizes and food labelling to meal planning and live cooking sessions. Participants also get to take part in fun activities and games, such as dance and rounders.  

Families are given activity booklets providing them with tips about how to maintain a healthy lifestyle alongside fun activities, such as a food alphabet challenge. For families with more complex needs, one-to-one support from the Change Makers team is available.  

“The course was a real eye-opener”

The families that have taken part in the workshops say they have had a significant impact on their lives. One mother whose son took part said: “I am really enjoying the sessions and felt very supported, and it has been such a good experience. Each week we have made a positive change and my son has felt so much better too. He is not raiding the cupboards anymore. The whole process has been so positive, even on my mental health as I struggle with this.”  

Another parent added: “The course was a real eye-opener. They gave us some really great tips and amazing ideas to move forward.”   

Follow-up evaluation has also shown positive results. Twelve months after completion of the programme fruit and vegetable intake is at six a day on average, above the recommended levels, and participants are completing 60 minutes of activity a day, up from 15 at the start of the programme.  

“It really makes a difference to families,” said Service Assistant Director Maggie Clarke. “What is great is because we are all part of the same team, we are promoting healthy lifestyles in a consistent way and when we spot someone who needs help, we can quickly get them into one of the programmes.  

“Families can, if they want, pick and choose workshops they go to, but we find most enjoy and value it so much that they want to go to them all.  

“The problem with something like this is that families can become very suspicious of such interventions, but because of the trust we have as school nurses and the excellent way the Change Makers team works, we do get good uptake.  

“But we are always looking at ways we can improve. At the moment we are consulting with families to see what we can do differently. We are beginning to think about running sessions in community venues and taking it out of schools more. That could help reach out to those who do not currently engage.”  

Making the most of the outdoors

Alongside the Change Makers course, the school health and wellbeing service has also partnered with The Warwickshire Wildlife Trust to produce a booklet encouraging people to get active and make full use of the trust’s 67 nature reserves.  

The extensive network of green spaces means no resident is more than six miles from a reserve. Ms Clarke said: “There are some really wonderful places so we have produced a booklet setting out where families can go and what they can do. It was something we decided to do during the first year of the pandemic as people were really restricted and there was a big encouragement to make more of outdoor activities.”  

The booklet, which was launched last summer, includes a wide range of ideas for activities from mini-beast hunting and leaf races to scavenger hunts and smelly potion making. It has been used by thousands of people. And this year the trust and school health and wellbeing service have started promoting a den-building challenge, encouraging children to use sticks and twigs to build dens.  

Ms Clarke said: “We are constantly looking for ideas to get people active and healthy. We do a lot of promotion on social media. In fact, every day we try to put out a message on Instagram – things such as interesting ways to get fibre into your diet, using your garden as route to mindfulness or getting out on a family bike ride.  

“Getting people active, eating well and sleeping well is of huge importance to both your physical and mental health so as school nurses we feel passionately about doing everything we can to encourage this among children and their families.” 

Contact details 

Maggie Clarke, Service Assistant Director, Connect for Health Compass

Email: maggie.clarke@compass-uk.org