Mental health problems pose a significant and unnecessary obstacle for students to overcome in the classroom. Studies show that students with emotional disturbance and poor social-emotional functioning have difficulty meeting academic standards.
Mental Health is a looming issue within the European Union with reports suggesting that 160,000,000 Europeans (38% of the populace) are affected each year. (Wittchen, H.-U. et al. Eur. Neuropsychopharmacol. 21, 655-679 (2011). | Article). Additional studies show that mental health problems may cause learning obstacles for our young people and students, therefore providing diagnosis, awareness and support in our learning organisations will be key as we move forward to the future as these young people move from education into employment.
This is further endorsed by Warwick et al (2008), highlighting a number of factors that influence provision of support services for students:
* awareness amongst professionals of links between student’s mental health and their achievement at college
* having in place national/college policies that address mental health
* building an inclusive college ethos
* access to in college/external support services
* provision of professional opportunities for staff
The OSCAR project aims to identify best practice in how organisations across the EU tackle the issue of student drop out through having mental health challenges. It also aims to take a wider view through the approach of identifying ways of enhancing positive well being, as well as improving
systems in mental health challenges. The best practice approach will arise from research and the synthesis of ideas into a trainers toolkit that will be developed based on a common set of standards but customised by each partner for their own territory.
Training will be given by the D&A service design team to the partners. Service design techniques will be used to create new user and learner journeys through the education system, to ensure that those with possible issues are not ignored or missed out and the appropriate support mechanism are in place. Also that connections are made to the relevant agency for individuals at the right time so drop outs are avoided where possible.
The partners will work with local, regional and national agencies and charities will act as advisers and ‘test beds’ for the OSCAR approach and materials. and then a set of guidelines for organisation and managers will be published that will embed the process into the partner’s VET education
systems. The local bodies will also act as dissemination routes for the project and its outputs.
The project aims to reach, via a cascaded training process – 100 teachers and 1,000 learners, who may have been at risk of drop out due to some social, mental or related issue – therefore OSCAR will have a direct impact on the lives of learners in the partner countries. The project partners will attempt to identify and measure the impacts of the project by comparing the student’s retention rates compared to a norm for the group.
OSCAR aims to:
1. Identify a baseline of current mental health awareness processes and procedures in partner countries;
2. Identify current Best Practice in the area of mental health, mental health awareness and curriculum design in VET organisations that will increase student retention
3. Use the service design philosophy to identify solutions to the current issues on an European and National level
4. Provide a ‘train the trainer’ approach for VET staff in mental health awareness based on project learnings
5. Disseminate via guideline development for relevant stakeholders and development of policy recommendations for policy makers.
* Quarterly reports will collect data to measure progress against predicted results and this will be fed back to partners
* Enhanced professional development of 20 teachers/trainers in partner organisations
* Cascaded training to mentors/tutors in other organisations to 100 teachers/trainers
* Production of case studies, trainers toolkit and guidelines for managers with trainers, learners and employers participating
* Retention of students who may have dropped out without the influence of the project activities.
* Publicity and promotional material – the number of leaflets, brochures, press releases created and disseminated
* Dissemination – by reaching the target group through social media, e-mail, attendance to conferences and the organisation of multiplier events
Quarterly reports will also measure:
* intellectual outputs developed/percentage progress made
* multiplier events organised
* stakeholders involved
* visitors to website
* social media followers
* level of financial spend relative to project plan
Intangible results are, by their nature, difficult to measure accurately, therefore indicators will ascertain to what extent participants measure changes in their own competences and knowledge.
Indicators for measurement are based on CERN’s ‘A Project Manager’s Guide to Evaluation’ (2005).
* The transfer of the methodology will be assessed using a survey to gauge innovation, validity, dissemination and valorisation. This will ascertain: What is new about the project? Did the transfer of the innovations work in practice? Do the processes/products/ resources developed meet the needs
of users? Was the dissemination carried out as described? Were messages successfully conveyed to stakeholders? What evidence is there to demonstrate that project results are being exploited regionally, nationally or at EU level?
* The improved competences will be measured by the evaluation and will show to what extent participating teachers/trainers better understand the assessment of mental health issues in relation to student retention.
* The increased intercultural awareness of teachers/trainers will be measured by a questionnaire/survey. This will assess to what extent intercultural awareness and sensitisation of participating teachers has improved as a result of involvement in the project.
* The improved participation rates of learners will be measured by the evaluation through a survey. This will assess to what extent participating learners have improved their participation attendance at college. their employability, and general mental health as a result of their involvement in the project.
* The development of innovative support environments within each partner organisation will be measured through case studies of those organisations with concrete examples of how the project has influenced the training and professional development environment within the organisation.
* The improved international profile for each partner organisation will be measured as part of the evaluation of trans-nationality and partnership. A survey will gather information on eg to what extent participation in the project has influenced attitudes to working in Europe and whether new partnerships have been formed.
Conclusions will be shared with all partners, to stimulate support for mainstreaming the innovation and allow the partnership to make adjustments to their working methods. The evaluation of activities and results will contribute to, and inform the final report.