carnegieXchange: School of Sport

Evaluation of a school-based programme to support children's physical and mental health

Research team: Jade Morris, Duncan Radley, Victoria Archbold, Andy Daly-Smith


During the academic year 2019-20, Leeds Beckett Researchers evaluated a one-year pilot intervention of Project HE:RO, a school-based programme to support children’s physical and mental health. The project is led by a health mentor that works in the school five days a week. Health mentors deliver multiple intervention components including a breakfast Wake and Shake Club, Classroom Coaching, Mentoring sessions, Playground Animation activities, Classroom Movers (active breaks during lesson time) and After School Clubs. Some intervention elements such as the Mentoring are specifically introduced for targeted children. Target children were identified by the school and Evolve to offer additional support for their physical health and mental well-being.

Children smiling and running

What we did

Multiple rapid cycles of data collection and feedback were planned to help the project continually improve, with a particular focus on increasing the number of minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity during the school day. Like many research projects during 2020, data collection was disrupted but we were able to continue to explore the implementation of the project by conducting additional focus groups and interviews virtually. Our final sample included four health mentors, twelve teachers and five senior leaders.

What we found

The interviews and focus groups resulted in seven overarching themes during our in-depth analysis on the implementation of Project HE:RO. Overall these themes highlighted a myriad of benefits. All schools reported improved trust for teachers in the relevance of the programme for their children’s health. Senior leaders, teachers and health mentors all expressed perceived improvements in engagement levels from the children. Positive relationships were built with the health mentors and children and with teachers. Furthermore, teachers were beginning to engage in the project, encouraging children to be more physically active. Benefits were identified across a range of intervention components, including enthusiasm for the school assemblies and perceived positive engagement during the Wake and Shake morning clubs.

What next?

Three considerations to improve the future implementation of Project HE:RO were drawn from the themes: (i) tackling school staff’s lack of ownership, (ii) project personalisation to increase the alignment to the school’s ethos and existing provision and (iii) health mentor’s personal development.

To find out more about Evolve’s Project HE:RO and other work they are doing with children, please visit