Transforming wellbeing provision in education

We’re improving the way schools identify, track and provide support for mental health needs among their pupils.

Children and young people are facing an unprecedented wellbeing crisis. This crisis is fuelled by the increased prevalence of mental health difficulties and cuts to mental health services. However, schools and colleges can help by:

  • creating a safe environment;
  • identifying and monitoring pupils’ mental health needs;
  • providing support for mental health needs;
  • referring pupils to (or delivering) specialist help.

What did we research?

Prof Neil HumphreyDr Michael Wigelsworth and Prof Pam Qualter - in partnership with the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families - demonstrated that:

  • universal screening can help schools identify those with emergent mental health needs;
  • some school-based support schemes are more effective than others.

They also identified key social and emotional learning strategies and practices for teachers and schools, to help children:

  • manage their behaviour;
  • control impulses;
  • develop their understanding of mental health.

What impact have we had?

Our research led to the development of the Wellbeing Measurement Framework (WMF), which helps to:

  • estimate the prevalence of mental health needs;
  • understand the determinants of mental health in children and young people;
  • identify and support those with emergent mental health difficulties more quickly.

Almost 300 schools in 68 local authorities have implemented the WMF. Together, these schools assess and track the mental health of more than 100,000 pupils. The data gathered then inform schools' social and emotional learning practices.

Two local authorities now screen every pupil for mental health difficulties. In Newham, more than 20,600 year 5-10 pupils (across 36 primary and 13 secondary schools) have been screened every year since 2016. In Blackpool, more than 1,500 year 5 pupils (across 32 primary schools) have been screened every year since 2017.

Our research has also informed Education Endowment Foundation guidance. This guidance helps teachers to improve their knowledge of social and emotional learning. It has also given them new ideas for teaching these practices to their pupils.