Big Education Challenge:
Meet finalist Andrew Speight

Read more about the Big Education Challenge

Andrew Speight, aged 20, from Blackpool, co-created Emoco after struggling with the effects of a high-pressure academic environment on his own mental health. The project hopes to improve mental health in schools by working with young people, teachers, parents/carers, and school leaders to co-produce a “white paper” for each school which sets out their ambitions for improving wellbeing.

“Education is not conducive to positive mental wellbeing – this is painfully obvious from both my lived and learned experience. Emoco seeks to bring everyone together in co-production to compose meaningful, effective and informed solutions.”

About Andrew

Andrew is a former Member of Youth Parliament. He aspires to transform the education system to be more accommodating to the mental health needs of students, teachers, and other school staff while creating a culture of wellbeing. Andrew’s experience as a student is what inspired him to pursue this mission.

As a student, Andrew experienced anxiety and a decline in his mental health due to the high-pressure culture and environment. This experience made him realise the need for a more supportive educational system. Andrew believes that the education system should not only prioritise academic excellence but also mental wellbeing. His goal is to create a culture where students, teachers, and school staff do not feel that their experiences in school are undermining their mental health.

The problem

“Blackpool’s young people have made clear that they want action to be taken to improve their mental health. We know from both research and lived experience that the education system is presently a driving factor behind poor mental health in young people.”

There is a mental health crisis among young people, with a 2020 study by NHS Digital finding that 1 in 6 children had a probable mental health condition during that year.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic this number has significantly increased, with many schools unable to take adequate measures to address this crisis. Many young people believe that the education system and its structure have played a significant role in their mental health decline.

This is not limited to students, as evidenced by Education Support’s 2020 Teacher Wellbeing Index, which showed that over half of teachers are considering leaving the profession due to the harm it does to their mental health.

The bold idea

“Schools should be low-pressure environments where students, teachers, and staff can openly discuss their mental health and seek help if needed.”

Emoco aims to inspire key stakeholders from adopter schools (e.g young people, teachers, parents/carers, and school leaders) to come together to co-produce a wellbeing charter for each school.

Each charter would outline their common definition of wellbeing and a set of proposals that they will be supported to implement.

Andrew dreams of revolutionising school culture across Blackpool and the rest of the country by transitioning to a “culture of wellbeing”. This looks like having a school culture where mental wellbeing is as important as academic excellence.

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