In Practice: Case Study - Healthy partnerships

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Middlesbrough Council has formed partnerships with local health trusts, the sports development team and other organisations to improve its extended schools offering. Jo Stephenson looks at what the team's efforts have achieved.

OBJECTIVES - Extended services can be a real opportunity to promote the health and wellbeing of children and their families. That's certainly the approach taken by Middlesbrough Council, which is working closely with health partners and others on a range of innovative schemes. These not only help schools meet the "core offer" of extended services but also contribute to local health goals.

WHAT WAS DONE - Middlesbrough's extended schools team has worked hard to build good relationships with colleagues both within and outside the authority, including developing links with the healthy schools team, school catering service and primary care trust (PCT), explains Julie McGee, the council's extended schools manager.

One PCT-funded project with school nurses saw pupils take home small lunch boxes containing a healthy snack and a drink to illustrate the kind of refreshments they would benefit from during after-school activities. The boxes also contained information for parents.

The team has also worked with the council's sports development team and the PCT's health promotion staff on a breakfast scheme at a local primary school, where up to 30 children have a healthy breakfast and play energising games before school. "It's about giving a healthy start to the day," says McGee. It also helps ensure those children are at school on time.

Joint health promotion events have also been a success, combining information and health checks with fun activities like making smoothies.

THE ISSUES - McGee says getting partnerships started with health was hardest. "We took a 'keep trying' approach," she admits. "But once we'd started it wasn't a problem." However, she stresses partnerships need to be fostered at all levels. So when it comes to joint working between extended schools and health, that means there must be a commitment to working together at children's trust level, at middle management level and on the frontline through extended schools co-ordinators.

OUTCOMES - Partnership working around schools and health has blossomed. "Once you have that working relationship you're invited to meetings and have the opportunity to interact," says McGee. This leads to more collaboration, she explains.

Future plans include working with the PCT on a targeted programme for families with obese children through a 10-week course at the sports centre. The team is also talking to local voluntary organisation Tees Valley Sports, the sports development team and Sure Start about a project to get older children more active.



- Be open to working with a wide range of people - Make sure all the roles and responsibilities are set out clearly- Ensure partner organisations understand the extended schools agenda and how they can support it


- Give up. Building a good relationship with health colleagues can take time- Think you have to provide lots of new services yourself. Often your role is more about acting as a conduit for others.

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