Stockport is a mix of rural and business communities on the outskirts of Greater Manchester; the town has an industrial history and during the last 20 years has seen growth and regeneration through development projects. Although many parts of Stockport are affluent, there are significant areas of social deprivation, increasing inequalities in issues such as health, employment, education and skills. In a 2009 area assessment report, Stockport public services were assessed. The report found that there was a significant difference in the health outlook for people from poorer districts, with mental health and heart disease a growing problem. Childhood obesity in Stockport continues to be a worrying trend: 15% of 11-year-olds are now classified as obese. The level of teenage pregnancy in Stockport is lower than the national average; however, there are higher concentrations in poorer areas despite a ten-year campaign by local partners to reduce pregnancy. There has also been a rise in the instances of young people being treated for sexually transmitted diseases.
About Stockport College
Stockport College is a large further education institution offering a wide selection of academic and vocational progression, from pre-GCSEs to degree level. Stockport College now has over 3,700 full-time students from a wide catchment area. A high percentage of students are from surrounding areas such as Manchester and Buxton. Stockport College has built strong community links and developed partnerships with several local authorities and primary care trusts (PCTs), many of which are out of the catchment area.
The college recognised the need to develop services for its students, particularly in the area of health improvement, as many students were not able or were unwilling to utilise external services in hospitals or GP surgeries. Pat Ahern, Healthy College coordinator, felt passionately about the services that the college provided in relation to sexual health, and decided to write a bid to Government office North West for funds to promote sexual health within the college.
‘We knew that promoting sexual health within the college would be a challenge, not only in terms of funding but challenging and changing mindsets. The importance of building strategic links with primary care trusts and local authorities is imperative to the information and services available to young people in the college. Teenage pregnancy rates in Stockport are below the national average; however, we recognise that there are pockets of social deprivation in our wider catchment area, many of which have higher levels of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Engaging with external agencies for the promotion of sexual health in and out of college is critical to the overall wellbeing of our students.’
The college had been successful in setting up a sexual health drop-in centre at the Heaton Moor campus, so the next challenge was to set up an additional sexual health drop-in centre at the remaining campus. These services needed additional funding, which was achieved through work with the Stockport Teenage Strategy Team and by securing monies from a Health Innovations bid for promoting sexual health in all three colleges in Stockport. This has resulted in drop-ins being implemented in Stockport College Town Centre Campus, Cheadle and Marple and Aquinas Sixth Form College, with a wider focus than purely sexual health.
The National HVP project developed to vaccinate against the two strains of HVP that cause cervical cancer was initially aimed at girls of school age from 13. The project developed in 2009 to include 16- to 17-year-olds, which now included many girls attending college. The college saw the importance of promoting this services, but funding had already gone to GPs so it was not something that could be offered in campus. In a bid to encourage and widen participation in the scheme, the college, in collaboration with two other colleges, worked with the Stockport NHS Communicable Diseases team and has been able to offer facilities for a nursing service on two occasions to promote the service in local GP surgeries in order to try to boost the uptake of the full vaccination in GP surgeries.
The college became involved with the Kirklees Healthy College Standard and then, working with the PSHE Lead at Stockport MBC and the PCT, a Stockport Healthy College Standard was developed which all the colleges in Stockport engaged in. Bridge College (a specialist college), Stockport College, and Cheadle and Marple and Aquinas Sixth Form College have all achieved this. This work has been a good precursor to the involvement in the National Healthy FE initiative with some of the following services implemented:
- ‘health bytes’ – technology updates
- funding for a college health coordinator
- health drop-in one day a week staffed by Central Youth
- training sessions for staff supported by the HR department in relation to health and welfare
- healthy eating options in the canteen
- health fairs, which promote college services and external agencies in relation health improvement.
To overcome the regional boundaries that the college is facing it needs to develop stronger strategic links with the local authorities and PCTs. Stockport College collaborates with many schools within a large geographic area, and enrols many students who are outside the remit of Stockport’s local authority and PCT. A steering group was formed to improve the links with Stockport PCT and Stockport Local Authority; to ensure that the colleges are included in the strategic plans and commissioning of both organisations as well as working together to improve the health and welfare of staff and students in a more effective way.
The college approached its local PCT to form a steering group. The group has key representatives from across all parties involved in the funding decisions for the health improvement of young people in the area. The group is called ‘Health in Colleges’ and it feeds into other areas such as the Integrated Team Around Schools and Colleges (ITASC).
Stockport College has a diverse mix of students that feed in from state and faith schools both in and out of the catchment area. Engaging learners and finding a suitable message around sexual health, whilst ensuring that the subjects are content-relevant is going to be a challenge. The promotion of health and welfare, specifically in relation to sexual health is a subject that some teachers will find difficult to discuss and promote; many may feel that they lack the specialist skills or practical experience of giving the correct advise as well as a lack of understanding of the services available for students. The college also has to ensure that there is a strong health and safety message around campus, ensuring that everyone understands their responsibilities and in this the estate department play an important role.
There have been many positive outcomes for the college in its implementation of Healthy FE, not least of the formation of the ‘Health in Colleges’ steering group – this is a big step forward for the college, PCT and local authority, which will hopefully result in effective partnership work to improve the health and welfare of young people. The college is fully supportive of implementing the Healthy FE initiative, and the Safer College Committee will be the forum where Healthy FE is discussed. The result of this will be that new partnerships will be developed internally to look at ways of promoting health, safety and the wellbeing of staff and students. Teaching staff are being encouraged to include health and welfare within their tutorials and now have a better understanding of the services available to students.
The college has the health drop-ins at Town Centre Campus one day a week at lunchtime, staffed by a nurse and a specialist youth worker from Central Youth, which is funded via the teenage pregnancy team. The service is able to give advice on many issues related to health and welfare as well as providing a full sexual health service. The college has always had its own team, which currently focuses mainly on mental and emotional health issues. This has been renamed the ‘Health and Wellbeing’ team and it is hoped in the future that it will expand its remit.
Stockport College will continue to raise the profile of Healthy FE by strengthening strategic links, forming focus groups and working with staff and the HR department to offer training in all aspects of health improvement. Staff and students are utilising the services that are now being provided and the college, along with its strategic partners, continues to explore innovated ways to promote future services and the Healthy FE message.