Evidence Based Practice Unit


About HeadStart and the Learning Team


HeadStart is a six-year, £67.4 million National Lottery funded programme set up by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK. It aims to explore and test new ways to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people aged 10 to 16 and prevent serious mental health issues from developing. 

HeadStart enables young people to thrive by building their resilience and providing additional support when and where it is needed. It looks at how young people’s mental wellbeing is affected by their experiences at school, their ability to access the community services they need, their home life and relationship with family members, and their interaction with digital technology.

Six local authority led HeadStart partnerships in Blackpool, Cornwall, Hull, Kent, Newham and Wolverhampton are working with local young people, schools, families, charities, community and public services to make young people’s mental health and wellbeing everybody’s business.

People with first-hand experience of living with an issue are well placed to identify and shape potential solutions. To make sure support works, the HeadStart partnerships involve young people in the co-design, commissioning, delivery and evaluation of services.

HeadStart Learning Team

EBPU is working with The National Lottery Community Fund and the HeadStart partnerships to collect and evaluate evidence about what does and does not work locally to benefit young people, now and in the future. Partners working with the EBPU on this evaluation include the University of Manchester and the Child Outcomes Research Consortium, a project of the Anna Freud Centre. This collaboration is called the HeadStart Learning Team. Previous partners in the HeadStart Learning Team include LSE and Common Room.

The HeadStart Learning Team is using a mixture of questionnaire and interview methods. Young people complete questionnaires every year to help track changes in how they are feeling and behaving over time. Professionals provide information regularly about what is being offered. Professionals and young people take part in interviews annually to explore challenges and opportunities around delivery and what young people find helpful.

The HeadStart Learning Team has developed the Wellbeing Measurement Framework (WMF), a suite of measurement booklets for primary school, secondary school and college students. Schools provide a key setting for support and intervention with regard to young people's mental wellbeing and problems, across all age groups, and each WMF is a comprehensive and practical package of validated measures that are designed to assess a range of mental health indices including positive wellbeing, behavioural or emotional difficulties, and the presence and strength of protective factors.