Delving Into the Data: What the #BeeWell Survey Tells Us About Southampton’s Young People

Understanding the experiences of young people can be challenging. We are often forced to rely on anecdotal evidence, conversations with parents and educators, or our own instincts developed over years working in the sector. Even when high quality quantitative data does exist, the findings aren’t always relevant to the young people in our local neighbourhoods. That’s where programmes like #BeeWell come in.

What is #BeeWell?

#BeeWell is a youth-centred programme that exists to improve the wellbeing of young people across England. #BeeWell listens to the voices of young people through an annual wellbeing survey delivered with secondary schools. They work closely with young people, schools, partner organisations, local government, and health systems to act on the results.

Last autumn, #BeeWell surveyed just over 22,000 Year 8 and 10 pupils in 103 secondary schools across in Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Portsmouth, and Southampton. The survey covered numerous topics including health, relationships, hobbies, school, and much more.

The findings, released in March, give us a better idea of how our young people are feeling.

What about arts and culture?

The hobbies and entertainment section asked young people about the time they spent on various activities, including those linked to arts and culture.

Cinema and Theatre

When asked how often they go to the cinema or the theatre, 19% of the young people surveyed said they go to at least once a month, 45.8% go occasionally, while 35.2% go once a year or less. The picture in different Southampton neighbourhoods varies slightly, with 22.2% going at least once a month in Southampton South, compared to 16.2% in Southampton West. The data also shows a slight increase in visits for those with Special Educational Needs (SEN) compared to those without.

Reading for Pleasure

When asked how often they read for pleasure, 26% of young people said they read at least once a week compared to over 60% who read several times a year or less. The data shows that boys, those in older year groups, those who received free school meals and those with SEN are all less likely to read often compared to their peers. When broken down by area, the number of young people reading often was lower than average in Southampton East, North, South, and West, but higher than average in Southampton Central.

Making Things

When asked how often they draw, paint or make things outside of school, 40.4% of young people said they do this often or sometimes compared to just under 60% who did this occasionally or rarely. When looking at how gender affects these figures, the number of young people doing these activities often drops from 50.2% for girls to 28.8% for boys.

What next?

When we compare the findings above to the high number of young people regularly engaging in sports outside of school (71.4%), we can see that there’s still a long way to go to improve engagement in arts and culture. However, quantitative data can only ever tell us part of the story, to fill in the blanks we need to continue to engage in conversations with young people and other stakeholders. We need to keep evaluating ourselves and asking the challenging questions. Are our services affordable, accessible, and inclusive? Are we visible enough to the communities we aim to support? How can we collaborate with other sectors like sports or healthcare? How can get better at referring to other services in our area?

But you don’t have to do it alone. Through our blog and our Member Meetings, the SCEP is here to help you find creative solutions to the issues facing our young people.

Further Reading

#BeeWell Neighbourhood Data Hive

HIPS Headline Findings 2024

The #BeeWell team also completed a research briefing on PACE, where conclusions show that engagement in a wide range of activities is beneficial for wellbeing. Read more here.

To discuss the programme in more detail the team can be contacted at

You Said, We Did

We surveyed Southampton Cultural Education Partnership (SCEP) members in the spring of 2023 about the future of the SCEP. Key things you said you valued about the SCEP were:

  • The generosity of spirit SCEP engenders and how egalitarian our spaces feel
  • How our meetings increase your understanding of the cultural sector in Southampton and new policies and strategies
  • That our work improves your practice through sharing approaches, projects and training
  • Developing your networks which feeds into new projects and work
  • That we extend the reach of the cultural sector into other areas in the city e.g. Youth and Health services

You said you liked the meetings being a mix of online and in person, and that the SCEP newsletter was useful for finding out about new funding and activities, although you asked for bullet points at the top of each newsletter on its contents.

We also asked about your priorities and the areas you felt the SCEP should focus on. You told us children’s health and wellbeing was a key concern, how young people’s employability skills were supported, and how we ensure that it was easy for children in Southampton to know what was on offer and access arts and culture. As a result the SCEP Steering Group agreed our three strategic aims which are:

  • Increasing Health & Wellbeing for children and young people through arts engagement
  • Pathways & Progression: testing out new approaches to conserve capacity and resources including referrals processes
  • Building a workforce for the future: providing inclusive training and skills development opportunities for young people and the cultural sector

Over the past year, as well as concentrating on how the SCEP delivers our strategic aims, we have focused on delivering the things you value about the SCEP. We have:

  • Set up termly member meetings that are online (October 2023) and in person (February 2024)
  • Planned in extra time to in-person meetings for networking
  • Added a section to meetings for members to present emerging practice
  • Added bullet points to the top of our newsletters

We look forward to continuing our work with you to nurture creative and cultural education for all children and young people in the City over the next year.

Creative Health and the Role of Arts Organisations in Health and Wellbeing

By Rosanna Sloan

Rosanna is the Interim CEO at The Arts Development Company and the SCEP Steering Group lead for Health and Wellbeing.

Creative Health is the practice of using culture and creativity to improve people’s health, wellbeing, and quality of life. You may have heard of dance classes for those with Parkinson’s disease or music therapy for dementia patients, but Creative Health supports people of all ages. Many cultural projects for children and young people have direct or indirect benefits to their health and wellbeing, and so, you may be working in Creative Health without even realising.

“When we remember the WHO definition of health, which states that health is more than merely the absence of disease and infirmity, but the attainment of the highest level of physical, mental and social well-being, then the value of the arts becomes apparent.”

WHO Arts & Health Lead, Christopher Bailey

We are currently facing a mental health crisis for children and young people.

It is a sobering statistic that there is a 50% increase in the likelihood of a young person having a mental health problem. 50%. The effects of the pandemic, exam pressure, social media and so on are having a tangible impact on the wellbeing of young people. It is concerning that 34% of young people who get referred to the NHS for treatment are not accepted. Our health facilities are struggling, and this is where the arts can help.

Social Prescribing

Social prescribing is when an activity or service is ‘prescribed’ instead of, or in addition to, medication. It is an area that needs further demystifying for arts organisations. There are, in some areas, dedicated Social Prescriber or Link Worker roles that prescribe activity to support a patient’s recovery.

“Our measures should reflect this holistic approach, focusing not solely on reduction of symptoms but on how the arts may help us cope, achieve our potential, be productive, and active members of a community.”

WHO Arts & Health Lead, Christopher Bailey

What I am seeing as I delve further into the research and on the ground delivery of Creative Health, is that these two distinct sectors need a translator to bridge the communication void between them. The two sectors use different terminology and the funding systems behind creative health from the healthcare sector are not clear. However, there are organisations that are trying to support this, including the organisation I work for The Arts Development Company.

Creative Health is—as demonstrated across many research papers—a highly successful and cost-effective way to improve a person’s health. It allows people to live happier, longer, more fulfilled lives, which in turn reduces strain on healthcare services. And so, it is an area that more arts organisations need to tap into.

What can we do?

As arts budgets are being reduced, we need to tap into the funding streams for Creative Health and identify projects that deliver health benefits for its participants. In our SCEP newsletters, we already see many examples of our members working in this area, but how can more of us get involved?

“We know that time is an important factor in establishing good programmes, so we must work together as a sector to ensure our services have longevity.”

We need to read up and be engaged in the conversations and research papers around Creative Health. We need to find a way to collaborate with health services and each other to create multi-year projects that are effective and provide stability for those that need them. Too often, wonderful projects happen, they support their participants for a short time, and then a lack of funding spells the end of all that work. We know that time is an important factor in establishing good programmes, so we must work together as a sector to ensure our services have longevity.

In addition to this, we should keep our eyes open to examples of best practice for people of all ages and question the health outcomes of our projects so we can provide data for future potential funders. We should use the right language and take advantage of the excellent work that has been done already in this area, for example using the Creative Health Framework as a way to consider and plan Creative Health projects.

As the SCEP Steering Group lead for Health and Wellbeing, I would welcome any of our members to get in touch to connect on your Creative Health projects and your interest in this area.

Further Reading:

Creative Health Talks

Creative Health Quality Framework

Creative Health: The Short Report

Arts Council

National Centre for Creative Health (NCCH)

NCCH Roundtable on Education and Training: Creativity for Health and Wellbeing in the Education System

Social Prescribing (Barnardos)

Join us for the SCEP Expo on Monday 11 March

Join Southampton Cultural Education Partnership (SCEP) for an evening of networking and celebration at John Hansard Gallery on Monday 11 March, 17.30-19.00.

We are delighted to host the Connecting Culture Project and the young Cultural Connectors as they launch the Young People’s Manifesto for Culture and Creativity in Southampton. Connect with arts and cultural organisations and meet SCEP members who will be sharing examples of activities and resources available for children, young people, and schools in Southampton.

Cultural Connectors at What’s Next Southampton? Credit: @devplacephotos

Directions to John Hansard Gallery can be found here. If you’d like to attend, please RSVP below.

Youth Governance – Four Lessons Learnt from Working in Widening Participation

by Ellie Grant

Ellie Grant is the University of Southampton’s new Arts and Culture Coordinator. Ellie joined the university in July 2022 and initially worked within the Widening Participation and Social Mobility Directorate. Prior to this, she supported students as the President of Arts University Bournemouth Students’ Union.

It’s no secret that young people can provide amazing insights into a variety of issues and offer solutions that nobody else has considered. However, understanding how to engage young people in decision-making can be challenging for organisations exploring youth governance for the first time. Luckily, there are a variety of sectors we can look to for inspiration, and, for this blog, I’ll be reflecting on the lessons I learnt from my time working in Widening Participation.

Prior to joining the Arts and Culture team this January, I worked in the Widening Participation and Social Mobility Directorate at the University of Southampton. I supported a number of students as part of the university’s flagship social mobility programme, Ignite Your Success, and it was during this time that I developed an understanding of the importance of youth governance. While there are many elements of youth governance and leadership that I could discuss in this blog, I’ve selected four key lessons that I believe can be applied to cultural education.

  1. Embed co-design at every stage

Whether you’re developing a project or a policy, one of the best ways to capture the youth voice is to embed co-design into every stage of your workstream. In my previous role, I was lucky enough to have access to a Student Advisory Board, a group of students from a variety of backgrounds who were consulted on different projects. These students helped to identify potential pitfalls in our proposals and worked with us to find creative solutions.

“For co-design to really work, the young people involved in a project should feel that they are making a tangible contribution to its objectives and outcomes.”

Not every organisation will have the resources to set up a youth consultation board, but luckily, co-design can take many different forms. Depending on the scale of the project, it may be more suitable to hire an intern or work with an elected representative. In any case, for co-design to really work, the young people involved in a project should feel that they are making a tangible contribution to its objectives and outcomes.

  1. Support and encourage youth-led activity

Giving young people the tools they need to create and lead their own activities can often result in more successful outcomes. In Ignite, we facilitated this by forming a student social committee. As staff, we provided administrative support in the form of processing bookings and payments, but the students themselves were responsible for planning, promoting, and delivering the events. Not only did these events have better levels of attendance and enjoyment, but the students on the committee developed teamworking and leadership skills.

While the level of independence will vary depending on the ages and circumstances of the people we’re working with, good youth governance asks us to consider what support young people need in order to run their own projects or create new policies. This might include access to meeting spaces, specialist equipment, training, or funding. Even things that we might take for granted, such as transport to meetings, should be considered.

  1. Empower leadership in all its forms

[We will ensure] All children and young people have a voice, are listened to and can influence the services they receive.

Southampton City Council, Children and Young Peoples Strategy 2022-2027

Joining panels or running activities won’t appeal to all young people but that doesn’t mean they can’t be leaders. It’s important that we find ways to empower leadership for those who are—for a variety of reasons including lack of confidence or lack of trust—less able to participate in traditional forms of youth governance. There are still insights to be gained by encouraging these individuals to participate in things like small group work or classroom discussions and then building towards more challenging activities such as peer mentoring or reverse mentoring.

  1. Reach out to those who are ‘hard to reach’

Similarly to my previous point, my final key message is about the importance of trying to work with young people who are less engaged. Typically, the same students who sit on the board for their youth club are also school council members and scout leaders and activists and so on, and this often means that the voices we hear in these spaces aren’t always diverse. We then miss the thoughts and opinions of those who opt out of these opportunities to co-design and share.

In both my Widening Participation and Student Voice work, I found that it was often those who weren’t as engaged who offered the most valuable insights into a project. In many cases, these are the young people who face additional barriers in life and whose needs are often neglected by traditional youth spaces. Learning from these individuals is often the key to ensuring a project or policy works for all the young people you want to support. Naturally, there isn’t a one size fits all approach to reaching these young people, but trying to understand their circumstances and meet them on their level is a good place to start.