Wales benefits from a strong national policy focus on health and wellbeing, with accompanying resources assigned to supporting the nation’s physical and mental health, including improving mental wellbeing in educational settings. To date, the Welsh Government has invested £2m to support mental health in further education (FE), which will rise to circa £5min 2023. BlwBo has undertaken three related qualitative research projects with Welsh colleges for ColegauCymru, focusing on Active Wellbeing provision. This Active Wellbeing Research Project has been commissioned by ColegauCymru and funded by the Welsh Government as part of their programme to support mental health and wellbeing initiatives in FE colleges.
Since 2021, the research has engaged with over 300 learners, their tutors and staff members who lead and support active wellbeing provision in further education institutions, as well as some national partner organisations. For this latest study, learners from over 17 different courses have contributed: full time and part time learners, active wellbeing participants and non-active individuals.
The aim of the research was to gain further insight into the connection between activity and wellbeing of FE learners and staff, specifically how active wellbeing can positively impact mental health. It has also explored the use of qualitative approaches to measuring outcomes, the potential for peer-led future research using this model, and identifying opportunities to improve both learner and staff understanding of the connection between activity, wellbeing and better mental health.
It has been well documented that the pandemichas increased the need for mental health support, while at the same time affecting access to the active wellbeing opportunitiesthat can form a key part of a preventative approach. For two years, learners have not had the type of access or experience theymight have expected to enjoy in person at college.There is a risk that newer blended learning approaches brought in to manage the pandemic will have a long term negative impact on learner and staff health and wellbeing, and people’s capacity to be involved in active wellbeing has become more limited.
Rob Baynham, Active Wellbeing and Sport Project Manager