As principal of Knowsley Community College, Frank Gill is extremely committed to developing links between education and health, and forming partnerships between education and health professionals. To highlight this, last year Frank was appointed as a non-executive director with NHS Knowsley. This partnership will serve to increase information, advice and services on health and welfare for those who work and study at Knowsley Community College.
About Knowsley Community College
Knowsley Community College is situated in the borough of Knowsley, Mersyside. The college has a large population, with a total of around 10,000 students, of which about 2,500 are full time 16- to 19-year-olds. Knowsley is also the fifth most deprived borough in the country.
Given the deprived area, general health and welfare problems are high, which means the college faces many challenges when it comes to tackling these issues. Knowsley’s rate of smokers, binge drinkers and teenage pregnancies is higher than the national average, and many people are generally finding it difficult to lead healthy lifestyles. There are two over-arching challenges to face: there is the issue of measuring up to the national average, and improving on it; but there is also the question of addressing the health problems in the local area on a relative level.
Knowsley Community College has a number of proactive approaches to address the issue of promoting healthy lifestyles, and increase awareness of health issues for young people and adults. These include:
- Close cooperation with NHS Knowsley (the local PCT) to ensure that the college plays a full part in public health campaigns (smoking, alcohol abuse, drugs, sexual health, etc.). This includes using the college regularly as a venue for exhibitions and promotional activities.
- The college has provided a permanent base room for the health promotion resource library, run by the PCT. This is a set-up whereby the PCT fund the service, but are based within a dedicated room within the college. This health resourse is accessed by staff and students of the college, as well as healthcare professionals and trainees (e.g. cadet nurses) and members of the public.
- The college incorporated a core compulsory theme of ‘Health and Citizenship’ into the tutorial curriculum for all full-time students. Guest speakers from the NHS, Police, and Drugs Team at the PCT are often invited to carry out presentations and discussions during the tutorials.
- The college is providing more support for teenage mums so that they are able to come back to college after giving birth, and also offers advice on childcare.
- The college adopted a ‘healthy menus’ approach to the refectory service, with a focus on low-calorie, low-fat food.
- On realising that many pupils were arriving at college not having eaten breakfast, the college decided to provide toast and a cup of tea free of chargeto students arriving before 8.45.
- Knowlesly Community College is a stakeholder in the charity, THINK (Teenage Health in Knowsley) and links closely with the PCT to support any relevant initiatives.
- The college has an on-site gym, and staff and students are encouraged to come and have a free health and fitness assessment.
With many young female students leaving to have a baby, the college decided to address attainment by providing advice and support to them during pregnancy, and after childbirth, so they can come back to college as soon as they are ready. Increased sexual health services through the health promotion resource library and PCT have meant that staff and students have more places to get information and support.
The new healthy menus in the refectory mean that food choices have shifted from the sausage and chips agenda to more lighter, healthier options – salads, fresh fruit and wholemeal bread. Students also took advantage of the free breakfasts to students arriving early, which meant they were getting a well-balanced diet and started their day on a full stomach. The college holds student forums throughout the year, which have shown that students want more of these healthy foods. Students have also been seeking more help and support through college-based counsellors and referrals to health professionals. The number of smokers amongst staff and students has also decreased, thanks to a smoking cessation service. The college is currently in negotiation with the local PCT around establishing a jointly-funded nurse-educator post which would further enhance the healthy FE agenda.
Frank Gill explains:
‘Since Knowlesly Community College began implementing its health and welfare initiatives, it has not only seen a healthier staff and student population, but also an increased level of interest in their own health and welfare.
‘There has been a shift in the culture concerning healthy eating, and retention and attendance rates are showing a pleasing upward trend.
‘Sexual health is now discussed more openly, and staff and students have adopted a more mature approach to their own sexual health, and are seeking advice more regularly than before. As a college we aim to further our links and partnerships with local organisations with whom we may be able to work together to improve health and welfare services further still.’