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.

The WMF is freely available to schools (primary and secondary) and colleges, and only takes around 15-20 minutes to complete (much faster for some young people).

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 Big Lottery 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. We are also exploring options to make a web-based system to administer the framework available free of charge in schools, for more information on this, please contact us using the details at the end of this blog.

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.

The Wellbeing Measurement Framework for Schools booklets will be launching in Spring 2017. For more information about the Wellbeing Measurement Framework for Schools please contact ebpu@annafreud.org