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 Spring 2020

Just over 5,300 students took part in the wellbeing school survey in 2020 spring term across the HeadStart Kent schools (Year 9 as the snapshot year group and Year 10 as part of the longitudinal cohort surveyed every year).

The number of students who took part was greatly reduced as schools were closed due to Covid-19.  The findings below relate to students who took part from the mainstream and grammar schools.

Year 9 and Year 10 students surveyed in 2020

  • Areas of strength were empathy and feeling supported by their peers, the community, and their families.
  • Older students had a slightly better appraisal of their wellbeing and reported slightly less difficulties than younger students.
  • Female students reported significantly more emotional difficulties than males. They also had a significantly less positive appraisal of their wellbeing and reported they felt less able manage their emotions or cope with stress than males.
  • Male students reported significantly more behavioural difficulties and had 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) reported they felt significantly more able to cope with stress than those without SEND. They also reported slightly less emotional difficulties. Older students eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) reported significantly more attention difficulties and had a less positive appraisal of their wellbeing than those not eligible for FSM. They also reported they felt less able to manage their emotions.

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

Positives Challenges
Compared to when they were in Year 7, this year’s Year 10 students reported fewer behavioural difficulties, particularly SEND males. Compared to when they were in Year 7, this year’s Year 10 students reported more emotional difficulties and 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 2020 Year 9 students reported higher levels of empathy, willingness to help others and participation in the community.  They also reported feeling more supported by their peers. Compared to the 2017 Year 9 students, the 2020 Year 9 students reported more difficulties and had a less positive appraisal of their wellbeing.

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.

Printed smiley faces surrounded by highlighter pens, post-it notes and a cup of coffee

HeadStart evaluation reports