HeadStart's Dr Polly Casey introduces the new Wellbeing Measurement Framework for Schools

Dr Polly Casey, HeadStart Research Fellow, reflects on the new measurement framework designed to support schools and colleges assess students' wellbeing.

What is the School Wellbeing Measurement Framework?

In collaboration with colleagues from CORC, the University of Manchester and Common Room, we have developed the Wellbeing Measurement Framework (WMF), a suite of measurement booklets for primary school, secondary school and college students. Each WMF booklet contains a set of validated questionnaires (tailored to each age group) that assess constructs such as positive wellbeing, behavioural or emotional difficulties, the presence and strength of protective factors such as perceived support at school, home and in the community, ability to deal with stress and manage emotions. In this sense, the booklets are designed to not only capture indicators of young people's wellbeing and mental health problems (outcomes), but also to capture the mechanisms, that we know from the research, explain the relationship between internal and external risk factors and young people's outcomes. This is important because looking at young people's mental health outcomes in the context of contributing risk and protective factors gives us a much deeper understanding and can lead to more effective intervention strategies.

Why and how did we create the Wellbeing Measurement Framework?

Originally, the WMF was created for use as part of the evaluation of HeadStart, a programme trialling a range of initiatives for improving resilience in 10-16 year olds, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund. We are extending the availability of the WMF to other schools because schools provide a key setting for support and intervention with regard to young people's mental health problems, across all age groups. The WMF is a comprehensive and practical, neat package of validated measures that we hope will be of great use.

To ensure that the booklet - its content and design - were thought about carefully from different angles, we consulted a range of stakeholders including young people themselves, practitioners in the field of child and adolescent mental health, key researchers, and local authority leads. Crucially, in selecting measures designed to be completed by young people themselves, we are moving away from traditional approaches whereby young people are 'spoken for', albeit often by well-meaning adults. We know that when measures are psychometrically sound and presented in age-appropriate language, young people are very reliable reporters of their own mental health and wellbeing.

How can it be used in schools?

Just using the WMF once can usefully provide schools with a snapshot of the state of the strengths and challenges for students and highlight areas to target for prevention or support. Implementing the WMF year on year (or at shorter intervals), however, will also enable schools to see trend data (i.e. how responses from students in the school are changing over time) or use the data to gauge the impact of support they are providing to pupils. Schools will be able to use WMF data alongside other information that they hold about their pupils (e.g.age, gender, ethnicity) to create a more nuanced picture of the psychological wellbeing and needs of their pupils.

Additionally, data gathered using the WMF can be used to send a positive message to parents that the school has broader wellbeing of pupils at its core and can be used as evidence of good practice for Ofsted.

Click on images below to open framework for primary schools, secondary schools or colleges. 


Wellbeing Measurement for Schools

In partnership with CORC, EBPU has developed Wellbeing Measurement for Schools. This approach uses measures from the WMF in an online survey for pupils and provides schools with reports that enable them to identify strengths and challenges and compare the mental wellbeing of their pupils with pupils in schools around the country.  An online staff survey is also available. 

Full details and costs can be found here or by contacting measuringwellbeing@annafreud.org

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