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Case Study: City Academy Norwich

In this case study we show you how the highly innovative City Academy Norwich have used Future Action’s '9 Step Building Mental Fitness Roadmap' to transform their culture around pupils' mental health from reactive to proactive.

City Academy Norwich is a secondary school located in the city of Norwich in Norfolk, UK. They were the first school Future Action worked in partnership with to transform the life chances of their young people.

CAN’s program started in May 2020 as the first lockdown was used to test the resources with key worker children focusing on mindfulness alongside a rigorous personalised circuit training program.

From September 2020, all Key Stage 3 groups and some Key Stage 4 groups studied Building Mental Fitness alongside a differentiated yoga program as part of the school’s recovery curriculum. As time has moved on, pupils have been offered a wider range of activities depending on their individual needs for mental health benefits.

The school have experimented with repetitive exercises such as running and walking to calm the amygdala and increase students' window of tolerance. Also weight training and boxercise to release tension, and team sports to give students that social aspect that team sports are so great for. By giving students greater choice over the activity, the school is seeing students demonstrate greater effort, engagement and progress.

The lesson on the mental health continuum has helped staff identify young people who are struggling with their mental health but sneaking under the radar. This step in the roadmap particularly helped identify on average 3 pupils per class and direct them to specialist support from the school’s social, emotional & mental health counsellor for additional support. It also helped identify 3 safeguarding issues and put support in place for the child.

Step 3&4 then moves on to look at the Mental Fitness Pyramid which focuses on building confidence and self kindness, using worries as a positive and creating a vision for the future.

Sam, a pupil in Year 8 said ‘‘My best subject has been PE because my mental health has gone from really low to the highest level it has ever been. I’ve realised that I can turn my problems into solutions for my future. The Building Mental Fitness unit has helped me in many ways such as building my confidence and my self esteem. Now my body knows that it can go further than I ever expected and my confidence about my mental health is higher than ever before."

The unit finishes off by looking at healthy and unhealthy habits and teaching pupils how to access the happiness chemicals before celebrating students' success as 'Mental Health Heroes'.

The school’s program has evolved with an optional Key Stage 4 group covering the Building Mental Fitness content during walking for health in core PE. It has been fantastic to see the group’s openness to discuss their own mental health grow and create a culture of peer support so young people know they are not battling their mental health on their own. CAN have also added a Walking for health enrichment activity for year 7’s as part of school’s innovative UCAN program to develop cultural capital..

Outside of PE, the course content has been used to help PE drive whole school impact.

All Year 8 students have covered Building Mental Fitness in RSHE this year to reinforce the importance of proactive self care strategies and all form groups cover the content as part of Mindful Mondays, Wellness Wednesdays, Physical Fridays to create and reinforce healthy habits throughout the school.

These posts are then shared on social media so the wider community can benefit from the excellent strategies within the program.

With the uncertainty created by Covid 19, there was an increase in staff wellbeing issues, so a dedicated staff program was created on google classroom. This enabled staff to benefit from pre recorded videos explaining the strategies in a way that staff could access confidentially.

The Future Action online course was accessed by all PE staff to upskill them as part of the department's Continued Professional Development program and is available to all teachers and support staff within the school. Bryony Radley, PE teacher, said ‘The Building Mental Fitness course has given me a number of strategies and greatly enhanced my confidence in supporting young people struggling with their mental health.’

Inspirational Headteacher Paul Collin has placed great emphasis on student well-being since he started at City Academy Norwich, and the Academy is reaping the rewards resulting in calmer, happier young people, enhanced relationships and improved behaviour, progress and attainment.

Paul Collin, Headteacher, said ‘It’s crucial, now more than ever to consider how schools and colleges are developing both the academic and the wellbeing of every young person.

At City Academy Norwich we place a core emphasis on every child having the same opportunity in life. Being mentally fit, happy, energised and productive are key attributes that everyone can benefit from having.

Our work with Future Action and the Building Mental Fitness programme has allowed us to ensure we consider a proactive approach to these areas, working with all our young people to become the very best versions of themselves and achieve future successes.’

The impact of the programme has been dramatic, with 94% of students who have completed the unit believing that they feel more equipped to manage their mental health now and in the future with the skills they have been taught.

The program was a major contributing factor to the school being awarded the Afpe quality mark with Distinction.

Chair of Afpe Mike Crichton cited the school’s Highly effective links between Physical Education, School Sport, Physical Activity and wellbeing including a very innovative approach to COVID-19 recovery since lock down as one of the reasons why the school was so successful.

The school continue to work with Future Action to tweak and improve the course, with plans for the School's Sports Council to take on a greater role at leading the programme across the school with their peers to improve outcomes further.

How we can help you

If you would like to join our movement of inspirational teachers, then the '9 Step Building Mental Fitness Roadmap' course teaches you and your colleagues how to set up an award winning program within 90 days with easy to follow videos and a comprehensive set of editable resources to save you hours of time planning and creating resources.

Why not try our complimentary Building Mental Fitness scorecard which has been created to help your Physical Education department identify the areas you need to focus on to transform the wellbeing of your students.

You can test your PE department's wellbeing scorecard in 2 minutes by answering 31 simple questions. You will receive your own personalised report with top tips to enhance the quality of your provision to transform the wellbeing of your students and staff. Taking this super quick quiz will arm you with the information you need to take your Physical Education department wellbeing programme to the next level.

In addition, we would be delighted to go through the answers you have provided in your scorecard and explore different ways we can enhance your departments wellbeing provision in partnership with you.

To find out more visit our website at:

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