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FE leaders call for better mental fitness education

mental fitness education

FE leaders have come together in a roundtable discussion led by educational charity and leaders in vocational and technical learning, @NCFE, and mental fitness platform FIKA (@TheFikaApp), to address the significant mental fitness education gap in colleges and what can be done to combat the growing mental health crisis.  

Research undertaken by NCFE and FIKA found that 76% of Brits are concerned about how they will cope mentally in the year ahead, following an extended period of isolation, uncertainty, and disruption. The findings make it clear that fundamental change is required within schools and colleges to protect and support younger generations, and to address the nation’s worsening mental health. The research also found that: 

  •    81% of 16-24-year-olds are concerned about how they will cope mentally in the year ahead 
  •    80% of people believe teaching confidence in schools and colleges is as important as teaching maths and English 
  •    79% believe that mental education should be taught in similar way to physical education 

Fika is offering their mental fitness curriculum framework and skills development platform to a large number of further education colleges, thanks to charitable funds from NCFE. Learners across the UK will access remotely delivered interactive courses in positivity, confidence, connection, focus, motivation, stress management and meaning via Fika’s mental fitness platform – the first of its kind in the UK.  

The roundtable discussion comprised key leaders in the FE sector including Liz Bromley, CEO at NCG, Chris Beech, Vice Principal from Burton & South Derbyshire College, Richard Caulfield, AoC National Lead for Mental Health, Andrea Cowans, Director of Student Life at Leeds City College, Matt Laws, Assistant Principal at Dudley College, and Amy Langford, Head of Inclusion at Milton Keynes College. They were joined by Nick Bennett, Co-Founder and CEO at FIKA and Dan Howard, Operations Director at NCFE, who facilitated the session. 

The impassioned discussion reflected on what needs to be done to address the mental health education gaps in FE and examined the participants’ experiences in embedding the FIKA platform in their own institutions. The key findings from the discussion include: 

  • At the heart of a thriving community, you will find a thriving college, but we need to ensure the individuals within those colleges thrive too. Minds need to be fit to go further and faster – this applies to both learners and educators so embedding positive mental fitness needs take a holistic, institution-wide approach. 
  • Resilience and confidence are 2 of the key skills needed for 2025. We need to alter our way of thinking and approach core meta skills in the same way we would a traditional subject. Why can’t we have someone who has a diploma in confidence and can teach and instil that – why can’t we certificate and give a currency to the core meta skills? 
  • There are several issues which contribute to poor mental health such as financial and domestic pressures. Hardship funding in FE should be given the same importance as that in HE – often college students are coming from a place of more disadvantage than their university counterparts. 
  • It’s important for there to be funding to fund transition in college – confidence is key to withstanding change. This is something that can be measured in student retainment and attainment. 
  • Finding that spot between health and education is key to success in combatting mental health decline and delivering successful academic achievement.  
  • Colleges have acknowledged the positive impact of using FIKA courses and reframing duty of care in mental health into positive skills development. 
  • Mental fitness should be a key driver in the levelling up agenda – it provides a far more stable foundation for economic recovery post-pandemic. 
  • Colleges have so much breadth – from 14-16, to adult learners – the whole college needs the support in same way as HE and schools are supported both in funding, time, and autonomy.  


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