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.

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


Around 10,000 young people in Years 8 and 9 in the 43 Kent HeadStart secondary schools completed a survey in 2018.

  • areas of strength were goal setting, empathy, family support and peer support.
  • younger students had a slightly better appraisal of their wellbeing and reported slightly less difficulties than older students.
  • males reported more difficulties in relation to behaviour, attention and peers. Females reported more emotional difficulties and had a less positive appraisal of their wellbeing.
  • students eligible for Free School Meals or with Special Educational Needs reported more difficulties and had a less positive appraisal of their wellbeing.
  • a large proportion of students had a high level of attention difficulties. However younger students reported the same level of attention difficulties compared to last year and older students slightly less attention difficulties suggesting an improvement.
  • overall, students in Year 8 reported more difficulties and had a less positive appraisal of their wellbeing compared to when they were in Year 7. However, they did report an improvement in their relationship with peers.
  • year 9 students reported less difficulties and had a better appraisal of their wellbeing compared to Year 9 students in the previous year except for the categories school support and helping others.

All schools, where more than 10 students took part, received an online report detailing the findings.  Schools are developing their wellbeing and resilience action plans around these findings.

The national findings from 2017, where over 30,000 students took part across the 6 HeadStart areas, mirrored the Kent findings that year.

View further evidence briefings, learning updates and case studies produced by the HeadStart National Learning Team.

Local evaluation

In addition to supporting the national evaluation, the local evaluation aims to answer questions under the 5 objectives:

  • Understand the level and extent of awareness of HeadStart
  • Explore and evidence how the programme is being implemented
  • Evidence the extent to which HeadStart is reaching and engaging with its target population
  • Describe and measure the effect HeadStart has on young people and their outcomes
  • 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.