Blog: Why Wellbeing Measurement for Schools can help you to better understand the needs of pupils
21 September 2018
Perspective of a former headteacher on mental health support in schools by Nick Tait (CORC Regional Officer)
As a former headteacher, I’ve had first-hand experience of the challenges that schools face, particularly when it comes to meeting the social, emotional and mental health needs of pupils. Staff in school want to do the very best for their pupils - they know that good mental health and wellbeing is essential for children to thrive but are not always able to properly identify and interpret the particular needs of the children in their school. With limited budgets in school for wellbeing and mental health interventions it’s essential that spending is linked to need.
That’s why CORC, in partnership with the Evidence Based Practice Unit (EBPU), were committed to developing a new comprehensive approach that allows schools to identify areas of strength and challenge for pupils’ mental health and wellbeing. Our approach uses validated questionnaires to collect and compare pupils’ responses, and reports these to schools. We now call this approach Wellbeing Measurement for Schools.
In order to achieve this objective, we consulted with school staff from the CORC network and an advisory group of school and local authority leaders. We explored with them: the best way to get good engagement and response rates; how our expert team could support schools through the process; and how we could share information with schools in a way that is easy to use and above all supports schools with evaluation and forward-planning in partnership with their stakeholders. As a former headteacher, all three points were important to me, since I had experienced first-hand the time and capacity constraints in school.
We started off by asking what schools would find most useful to know. Should we report on average mental health and wellbeing scores for their schools (and compare these to others’ averages), or use a threshold to identify the proportions of pupils for whom there might be cause for concern? Our network members were very much in favour of using thresholds so we drew on existing data and research to identify an ‘expected range’ and a range that may be ‘of concern’. These ranges are displayed in a way that enables schools to compare their pupils with pupils of a similar age in other schools and allows them to see where pupils are doing well and where things could be improved.
Seeking the most accessible way of presenting complex information to schools, we came up with a report that provides bar charts - collating pupil responses on each of the aspects of mental health and wellbeing explored – together with a summary statistical comparison presented as a RAG (red, amber or green) rating. We benefited from input and positive feedback from advisory schools and local authorities, who were keen on the simplicity and ease of use the report, and helped us to constructively reference to Ofsted and provide clear guidance about how to use the report.
Another integral part of the development of Wellbeing Measurement for Schools was to design a support system that would help schools to: gain opt-in consent from parents for pupils’ participation; submit data to the research team; and interpret their reports to help them plan for change. Through consultation we have developed a mixed approach, offering support in the form of guidance, instructions and access to free resources for each step of the process, complemented by a monthly e-bulletin and expert-led webinars and videos offered throughout the school year.
I wish this approach had been available to me when I was working in school. I see Wellbeing Measurement for Schools as a necessary step forward to help schools better understand the emotional and behavioural difficulties, overall life satisfaction and resilience of their pupils, enabling them to plan support effectively and economically as well as monitor the impact of the support they provide. The feedback we received from our network members and advisory group was also overwhelmingly positive.
To find out more about Wellbeing Measurement for Schools please visit our webpages.
The Quality Assurance Panel for Schools Work in AFNCCF and CORC
All the members of the CORC network that responded to our questionnaire and requests for feedback.
- Wellbeing Measurement for Schools
- The Child Outcomes Research Consoritum (CORC)
- The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families (AFNCCF)