3 steps to measure and support student emotional wellbeing

There is ‘growing evidence’ piling up over the impact of past school closures upon student emotional wellbeing, adolescent distress and mental health. (Lancet, 2021) Of even greater concern is new data, stating that disadvantaged children are becoming permanently disengaged from education.

Schools are being highlighted as the location where adolescents can be identified and supported when displaying signs of emotional distress.  Researchers note that these ‘settings of academic and social learning’ are thus bearing the brunt of a new crisis, one without adequate support from the health sector (Lancet). With schools facing this mental health pandemic unarmed, there are ‘huge gaps between the ideal health promotion in schools and current practice’.  Adequate support for pupils seems to be limited to ‘passionate teachers’ who are sometimes spending their own cash on resources to help their children. 

It is now more essential than ever for schools to be able to measure student emotional wellbeing and mental health when they return in September. As the Lancet reports, in a perfect world, the health and education sectors would combine forces to make ‘all schools functioning health-promoting systems’. But lacking that utopian scenario, what can schools do to help returning students this September?

One common solution, supported by many within the health and education sectors, is the requirement for a ‘standardised academic routine measurement of student health and wellbeing.’ (Lancet)  Public Health England and the Anna Freud Centre recently collaborated on a toolkit for schools to measure and monitor young people’s mental wellbeing. This resource went into depth on how and why schools should support school wellbeing.

Michael Samuel MBE, the current Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Anna Freud Centre for Children, believes that returning schools should ‘pay attention to individual experiences and the insight that the evidence provides.’ Schools around the world will be under pressure to catch up academically, so how can schools effectively gain wellbeing evidence on an individual pupil basis as Michael suggests?

The Public Health England toolkit is a great place to start for any school with a lack of wellbeing measures in place.  They have broken the process down and provided some simple steps on how to make a start. 

3 steps

  1. Snapshot – Measure wellbeing and mental health with a survey
  2. Identify – Use the results to highlight those who need support
  3. Evaluate – Analyse results over time to check if your wellbeing and safeguarding processes are working effectively

7 considerations when setting up emotional wellbeing measures in schools

  1. Why? – Explain to your students and staff precisely why you want to find out how they are feeling … make sure they know that it’s not a test!
  2. What? – What are you going to measure? By what means?
  3. Who? – Who is going to administer the measure? To whom does the responsibility lie to store and collate the data?
  4. When? – When will you schedule or make time to get the survey and/or assessments completed and reviewed?
  5. Where? – In what location will the assessments be completed? Do you want pupils next to each other or at home?
  6. How? – Are you going to use paper surveys or a digital service?
  7. What next? – What are you going to do with the results?

The free, full toolkit can be found at the link below: https://www.annafreud.org/media/4612/mwb-toolki-final-draft-4.pdf

Many of the measures recommended in the report are free to use, however managing the data can be tricky and time consuming. This is why we created our student wellbeing platform, YouHQ (www.youhq.co.uk). YouHQ is a mobile-responsive app which uses the WHO-5 wellbeing measure (a recommended wellbeing measure by PHE) to track the wellbeing of your students, providing schools with the ability to identify and give extra support to those who need it. youHQ has been recommended for schools looking to focus on student emotional wellbeing in a recent article by Panoba.

A change in mood can be the first sign of a safeguarding concern. In response to this, YouHQ has partnered with MyConcern and CPOMS Safeguarding Software, meaning that schools can log concerns within a few seconds and without needing to leave our app. To find out more, or sign up for a free trial, please click here.