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 were also surveyed in 2019 when they were in Year 7.

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

Survey findings for 2020/21

Just under 4,800 students took part in the wellbeing school survey in 2021 across the HeadStart Kent schools (Year 9 as the snapshot year group and Year 11 as part of the longitudinal cohort surveyed every year).

The number of students who took part was greatly reduced due to the disruption of the pandemic. The findings below relate to students who took part in the mainstream and grammar schools.

Year 9 and Year 11 students surveyed in 2021

  • Areas of strength were behaviour, empathy and feeling supported by their peers, the community, and their families.
  • Older students had a slightly better appraisal of their wellbeing and reported less behavioural and attention difficulties, and difficulties with their peers.
  • Female students reported significantly more emotional and attention difficulties than males. They also had a significantly less positive appraisal of their wellbeing and reported they felt less able to manage their emotions or cope with stress than males.
  • Male students reported significantly lower levels of empathy and willingness to help others than females. They also reported they felt significantly less supported by their peers than females.
Positives Challenges
Older students with Special Educational Needs &
Disabilities (SEND) had a slightly more positive
appraisal of their wellbeing and reported fewer
emotional difficulties than those without SEND.
They also reported they felt better supported in
school.
Older students eligible for Free School Meals
(FSM) reported significantly more behavioural and attention difficulties, and difficulties with peers, compared to those not eligible for FSM. They also reported significantly lower levels of empathy and willingness to help others.
The significant differences in these categories
were also shown when comparing SEND and
non-SEND students.

Longitudinal cohort 1 (the same students surveyed every year from 2017 until 2021)

Positives Challenges
Compared to when they were in Year 7, this
year’s Year 11 students reported fewer
behavioural difficulties and reported they felt
better supported by their peers.
Compared to when they were in Year 7, this
year’s Year 11 students reported more emotional
difficulties and had a less positive appraisal of
their wellbeing, particularly females.

Longitudinal cohort 2 (the same students surveyed in 2019 and 2021)

Positives Challenges
Compared to when they were in Year 7, this
year’s Year 9 male students reported fewer
emotional difficulties and reported they felt more able to manage their emotions and cope with stress.
Compared to when they were in Year 7, this year’s Year 9 students had a less positive appraisal of their wellbeing, particularly females.

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

Positives Challenges
Compared to the 2017 Year 9 students, the 2021 Year 9 students reported fewer behavioural difficulties, particularly males. Compared to the 2017 Year 9 students, the
2021 Year 9 students had a less positive
appraisal of their wellbeing, particularly females.

 

Evidence briefings, learning updates and case studies produced by the HeadStart National Learning Team are available.

 

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.

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HeadStart evaluation reports