Why schools in Greece struggle to implement holistic approaches – and why a new ‘Skills Lab’ could be a game-changer: policy mapping

By Schools4Health consortium

One approach to help reduce the responsibility placed on schools to implement health promotion activities on top of what they are already doing is to ensure that the Health Promoting School approach is better integrated into existing school curricula. This was a key finding of the Schools4Health survey and roundtable discussions in Greece, where schools are struggling to implement this holistic approach to health and education. But a new ‘Skills Lab’ could be a game-changer for Greek schools.

The report presenting the outcomes of the survey and roundtables in Greece indicates that all primary schools and the majority of preschools and secondary schools implement health promotion activities, as part of their cross-curricular teaching and non-curricular educational activities and projects. Such activities are, however, not a priority for schools. As a school educator in Greece put it: "There are some health promotion activities implemented in school settings, since they are described and included in the teaching curriculum (but) these cannot be considered enough to meet a holistic approach.” None, however, fully implement the HPS/whole school approach. 

While the Health Promoting School network was initially established in 1993, it was disrupted, and there are current efforts to re-develop it. It was additionally noted that the Institute of Child Health has translated the SHE school action planner tool on Health Promoting Schools into the Greek language, together with the “Healthy Eating and Physical Activity HEPS Tools for a Health Promoting School approach on childhood obesity prevention”.

The Greek report, however, identifies a new development that may support efforts of schools to take forward the core objectives of the Health Promoting School approach. Since September 2021, a “Skills Lab” has been rolled out to all classes throughout the country, as a mandatory inclusion in the national school curriculum. This new, innovative module that focuses on the cultivation of soft, and digital skills, considered necessary for a rapidly changing world. These skills include fundamental life skills related to health, safety, and social interactions, as well as more elaborate skills related to education and life-long learning. It emphasises communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity - skills considered essential for children and youth that are part of the 21st century. The Skills Labs are designed to promote and bring into effect the UN Sustainable Development Goals with a particular emphasis on Goal 4.7  

The module is part of the mandatory national curriculum for all students in compulsory education. Kindergartens and elementary schools dedicate three hours per week (10% to total teaching time) and lower secondary schools dedicate one hour per week (to be expanded soon). Almost 100% of targeted teachers (60,000) have either completed or enrolled in the Skills Lab module teacher training programme (32-hour online workshop). Education materials are developed by universities and civil society organisations and evaluated, selected, and monitored by the Institute of Educational Policy. All educational materials are uploaded on an online, interactive platform that allows teachers to collaborate and exchange good practices.

When running the Skills Lab, the Health Promoting School approach doesn’t just become an “add on’’, but it become part of the changes that need to happen within school systems to best prepare children and youth to lead healthy lives and contribute positively to society.

About the Schools4Health mapping of health promoting school policies in the EU
This article is an extract of the Schools4Health ‘Report on policy and practice to strengthen the Health Promoting School approach across the EU’. A key objective of the Schools4Health project is to encourage and enable public authorities and other relevant actors to move from health promotion in schools, towards applying more holistic Health Promoting School approaches. This is supported through the initiative’s policy component, which seeks to raise awareness, mainstream and scale up Health Promoting School approaches among policymakers and practitioners, and to engage them in efforts to integrate this approach in their national/sub-national contexts. It means bringing together different stakeholders in policy and practice, across levels of governance and sectors, to optimise the contribution that schools can make to the health and wellbeing of students, staff, and the wider communities.

As a first step, the Schools4Health consortium focused on scoping the current policy landscape across different participating municipalities, regions and countries influencing or impacting school wellbeing. This was done by identifying and bringing together key actors in the respective partner countries to discuss the broader policy context around health promotion in schools, and identify what is required, from a policy perspective, to introduce or strengthen the implementation of the Health Promoting School model in school settings.

Visit the Schools4Health website to access all resources from the project https://schools4health.eu/  


Posted on 07/05/2024 by Schools4Health consortium

"Project is funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HaDEA). Neither the European Union nor HaDEA can be held responsible for them."