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Self Health phase 2 -Brighton and Hove Friends Centre

A DfE Community Learning | Mental Health Research site 2015-17

Image of Brighton seafront taken from the palace pier showing the beach and sea, people on the beech and the Brighton Big WheelIn Phase 2 we were set a target to recruit and retain 178 learners.  We were placed in Group B – delivering general adult community learning courses to those with mild to moderate mental health challenges.  From Phase 1 we knew that retention had been low and only around 50% of those who came to IAG then attended and completed their courses.  Some of the issues surrounding the low retention had been resolved with better marketing information and clearer guidance given to potential research volunteers so they knew what was expected of them and had a better understanding of the research project. 

Our expectation for learners in phase 2 was that 75% of learners would complete courses and provide us with a measure of distance in mental health scores. As such, we planned to deliver 30 courses of 15 hours and 12 top up courses.  We set the maximum learner numbers to 8, but allowed this to be increased, in agreement with tutors and course providers.  We anticipated that of the 30 courses of 15 hours, we would recruit 240 learners and retain 180 of them.  Courses were to be planned on a termly basis, so we could extend /reduce our offer in response to recruitment levels over the year.

In the autumn term we planned to deliver 19 courses across 6 providers: Friends Centre, The Bridge, MindOut, Portslade Aldridge Community Academy (PACA) Adult Learning, Whitehawk Inn and Varndean College.  13 of these courses were 15 hours in length and 6 of them were top up courses for returning learners from Phase 1.  Learners on top up courses would not count towards our target number of 178 but were still important for us, to learn from those who had previously attended courses, about the impact of our courses on their mental wellbeing.  Of the 13 longer courses planned, we estimated that we would recruit 104 learners and retain 78.

Due to low enrolments we cancelled 2 of the top up courses which didn’t attract any learners.  We cancelled 5 other 15 hour courses which only attracted between 0 and 3 learners.  This was rather disappointing as many of these courses had been popular in Phase 1.

From the courses which ran, we collected 14 data sets from top up courses and 40 data sets from the 15 hour courses. At this point we had achieved 30% of our target number of completed data sets but only 69% of our delivery plan for the autumn term.  We needed to make up the 31% of courses which didn’t run and improve retention on our courses.  Although we wanted to deliver courses which were accessible to all, including those who work, we found that those courses which ran in the evening were those which had the lowest retention.  For future courses to ensure better retention we would need to consider what type of courses were offered, if any, in the evening.

Read some of our case studies below

Made with Padlet

For the spring term we offered 8 courses at three of our providers: Friends Centre, Varndean College and Portslade Aldridge Community Academy (PACA) Adult Learning.  We hoped to pick up more enrolments from PACA in the west of the city, as the number of learners so far from this area was low.  Of those 8 courses, we anticipated that we would attract at least 64 learners and result in 48 completed data sets.

Unfortunately 3 of the courses were cancelled due to low enrolments and overall we attracted only 34 learners (53% of our delivery plan for this term).  We have retained 75% of our learners and have 25 completed data sets for this term.  This brings our total of completed data sets to 79 (44% of our target.)

Learner Feedback

Read some of our learner feedback below.

Made with Padlet

Image of miniature crocheted barrel cacti in mini teracotta plantpotsIn the summer term we delivered all IAG and courses in house.  Our courses are running at our two Friends Centre sites in central Brighton.  We have delivered 6000 brochures across the city and are marketing through Facebook, emails and by post.  This term we planned 12 courses and 6 top up workshops.  We are offering a number of courses which we haven’t yet tried, including crochet, machine sewing and creative writing. 

Although we have received a high number of responses to our marketing, due to a lack of interest we have cancelled 2 of the courses and 1 of the planned top up workshops. 

Our aim was to reach 96 learners to achieve our target of 178 data sets and although we had many enquiries and bookings for IAG sessions, not all those who booked attended their appointments and not everyone attending IAG sessions was eligible to take part in the project.  We have contacted potential learners to encourage them to rebook their IAG sessions but not everyone wanted to do this.

This term we have completed 84 IAG sessions, including 9 learners who were not eligible, did not want to continue with a course or were unable to attend a course due to cancellation.  Of the 75 learners who enrolled on courses this term, 71% are still attending or have already completed courses.

This term we tried to encourage more men to take part in the research project by offering IT and photography courses which, based on our usual cohorts for these courses, attract a mix of male and female learners.  The cohort of our general adult education courses usually comprises 75% female and 25% male learners and we have seen similar figures for this term on our Self Health project (73% female / 27% male.)

Image of bunting of various coloursInterestingly, although IT, Photography and Confidence Building have a number of male participants, our sewing courses have attracted more men than usual; 17 enrolments in total, 35% of these are male.  On our other sewing courses the number of males enrolling is usually less than 1%.  Three of the men on the Self Health sewing courses have already shown an interest in continuing their studies and enrolling on further sewing courses at Friends Centre.

Of the 31 learners who enrolled on to top up workshops, 28 of these attended.  Those attending top up workshops were a mix of learners who have attended courses since the project began in 2015.

Although we were hopeful to have a higher rate of retention this term and have been closely monitoring attendance, keeping in contact with learners and sending out reminders to come to class, to date, 50 learners have complete their courses or attedning and completed a top up workshop, giving us a total of 129 complete data sets and 72% of our target.

Information on our summer term courses can be found on the community learning mental health research offers page.

Impact on Staff

This project began as joint local working with a number of local charities, colleges and adult education providers within the city.  Through our joint working we were able to provide a range of staff development / CPD opportunities which included the following:

  • Workforce training for all those involved in the project: admin, IAG, tutors, volunteers, managers.  This covered a number of topics; co-production, safeguarding, mental health awareness, mental health services & signposting learners, GAD-7, PHQ-9 and SWEMBWS.
  • Additional training for tutors in mental health awareness and mental health assessment tools which would be used in the project
  • Mental Health First Aid 
  • Mindfulness
  • LGBTQ Affirmative Practice Training

 We are now hoping to train further staff in Mental Health First Aid as a high number of our learners are living with mental health challenges.


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