HeadStart is a major programme funded by Big Lottery, which involves areas across England trialing a broad range of initiatives for improving resilience in children and young people aged 10-16, who may be facing challenges to their emotional wellbeing.

Big Lottery has committed £55m to fund six local authority-led partnerships - in Blackpool, Cornwall, Hull, Kent, Newham and Wolverhampton.

HeadStart programmes involve a partnership between schools, voluntary sector providers and young people themselves as well as a range of other agencies who seek to support young people and build resilience. Each partnership bases their approach on the local context and trials different ways to help children and young people to:

  • Stay mentally healthy
  • Manage stress and worries
  • Do well at school
  • Avoid getting involved in risky behaviour, such as drug use
  • Enjoy life

All HeadStart partnerships include universal help (aiming to work with every person in a given school or year group) and providing targeted help for those who might find extra support helpful.

Wellbeing Measurement Framework

Within the context of the HeadStart programme, a common measurement framework - the Wellbeing Measurement Framework - was developed to ensure consistent measurement across the programme. The Framework is a set of validated measures assessing children's emotional wellbeing, mental health issues, coping strategies and risk and resilience factors. It has been developed by the HeadStart Learning Team and, thanks to further funding from the Big Lottery Fund, it is now being made available free of charge to schools through a new Measuring Wellbeing in Schools project.

Learning from HeadStart

The Big Lottery Fund has contracted a learning team alongside the partnerships to help evaluate impact of the programme and learn as they go along. The learning is led by the Evidence Based Practice Unit (EBPU), a partnership of UCL and Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, and includes University of Manchester, London School for Economics, the Child Outcomes Research Consortium (CORC) and Common Room.

The learning team will help evaluate impact and implementation by the following methods:

  • Every year children from schools across the partnership areas will complete the school wellbeing measurement framework about their feelings and friendships. This is collated with information about what help they have received and how much it cost
  • Interviews are carried out with some children to learn more about their experience in detail
  • Particular ways of helping that are being used across several difference areas (e.g. peer mentoring) are being looked at in more detail to see if one way of providing the approach is more helpful than another

HeadStart Resources

Access all the latest resources, including the Wellbeing Measurement Framework booklets for schools and college

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Headstart approaches

Read about some of the approaches used by HeadStart partnerships to support children and young people across the country