Research and Evaluation

The aims of the local and national evaluation of HeadStart are to identify whether the programme is making an impact on young people’s resilience and mental wellbeing and to understand which elements of support are associated with the most positive outcomes for children.


The Wellbeing Measurement Framework

To support the evaluation, an online survey, the Wellbeing Measurement Framework (WMF), has been developed to ask young people about their general wellbeing, resilience and mental health.


How we do this

The survey takes place annually in the spring term for five years with two groups of young people in secondary schools participating in the programme:

  • A ‘longitudinal’ group being followed year-on-year as they progress through secondary school, starting in Year 7
  • A ‘snapshot’ group, which involves administering the survey to each Year 9 group.
  • Students will also be surveyed in 2019 when they are in Year 7.


Year 5 and 6 students in participating primary schools can also take part in the survey.


Survey findings

Just over 9,200 students took part in the wellbeing school survey in 2019 spring term across the HeadStart Kent schools (Year 7 as a new snapshot year group and Year 9 as part of the longitudinal cohort surveyed every year and the snapshot Year 9 group).  The findings below relate to students who took part from the mainstream and grammar schools.


Year 7 and Year 9 students surveyed in 2019

  • Areas of strength were behaviour, goal setting, empathy and support from their peers, the community and their families.


  • Younger students had a slightly better appraisal of their wellbeing and reported slightly less difficulties than older students, except for difficulties with their peers.


  • Female students reported significantly more emotional difficulties than males and reported they felt less able to cope under stress. Whereas, males reported significantly more attention difficulties.


Positives Challenges
Older students eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) felt as supported by adults at school as students who are not eligible for FSM.


Older students with Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEND) reported they feel significantly more supported by adults at school than those without SEND.  They also reported slightly less emotional difficulties and that they feel more able solve problems and cope with stress than those without.

Older students eligible for FSM reported significantly more difficulties and had a less positive appraisal of their wellbeing.


Longitudinal cohort (the same students surveyed every year from 2017)


Positives Challenges
Compared to when they were in Year 7, this year’s Year 9 students reported fewer behavioural and peer difficulties and reported an improvement in their relationships with peers. They reported more emotional and attention difficulties and had a less positive appraisal of their wellbeing.


Snapshot Year 9 (the Year 9 students surveyed each year – different students / same age)


Positives Challenges
Compared to the 2017 Year 9 students, the 2019 Year 9 students reported less difficulties and had a more positive appraisal of their wellbeing. They reported they feel less supported by adults at school and have less goals or aspirations.


Snapshot Year 7 (Year 7 students surveyed in 2017 & 2019 – different students / same age)


Positives Challenges
Compared to the 2017 Year 7 students, the 2019 Year 7 students reported less behavioural and attention difficulties and feel more supported by adults at school. They reported more emotional and peer difficulties and had a less positive appraisal of their wellbeing.



All schools, where more than 10 students took part, received a report summarising the findings.  These were feedback to students in those schools.  Schools are developing their wellbeing and resilience action plans around these findings.


Evidence briefings, learning updates and case studies produced by the HeadStart National Learning Team can be found here.


Local evaluation

In addition to supporting the national evaluation, the local evaluation aims to answer questions under the five objectives:


  1. Understand the level and extent of awareness of HeadStart
  2. Explore and evidence how the programme is being implemented
  3. Evidence the extent to which HeadStart is reaching and engaging with its target population
  4. Describe and measure the effect HeadStart has on young people and their outcomes
  5. Describe whether, and in what ways, HeadStart is facilitating system change in school and community approaches to young people’s mental health.


The local evaluation uses systematic and rational approaches to research and analysis, combining data from relevant sources to produce robust and valid reports.

HeadStart evaluations