The HeadStart Resilience Toolkit will take you through the process of assessing your setting's approach to resilience and wellbeing. It will help you to step back and strategically look at where you are in the world of Resilience.

The tool will help you to join up your approach, plan whole school/organisation change as to how Resilience is nurtured and provide direction in terms of forward planning and further assessment.

The Resilience toolkit was developed by HeadStart Kent as part of the BIG Lottery Investment during 2014-2016. It is based on the Young Minds Academic Resilience approach and the Public Health paper ‘Promoting children and young people’s emotional health and wellbeing - a whole school and college approach

It has been tested by schools on a practical level, as well as Greenwich University who was asked to explore the rationale for the toolkit and ensure the approach is set within evidence base, and to make recommendations. This version of the toolkit has been adapted from this learning and continual feedback from its first 2 years of being used in schools, and will continue to be improved as a result of its further use in schools and community settings.

The Toolkit defines resilience as:

“…Overcoming adversity, whilst also potentially, subtly altering, or even dramatically transforming (aspects of) that adversity.

This flexible toolkit is intended to support an on-going cycle of self-appraisal which can bring important and tangible benefits. These include:

  • Working together with the whole school community to clarify purpose and vision
  • Ensuring provision is targeted at identified needs
  • Ensuring that the whole school community are fully involved
  • Providing clarity for working with a wide range of families and partners
  • Developing an action plan to identify  strengths and areas for further development which will provide a benchmark to measure progress

Each chapter will facilitate:

  • Discussion with colleagues, young people, communities and families
  • Search for evidence
  • Actions to meet identified outcomes

Descriptors and criteria are given at three levels (emerging, established and advanced) to help schools determine their current level of development and identify future actions.

There is no definite time to start using this toolkit. You may wish to set up your Resilience Team and start the first chapter at the end of the academic year, or similarly towards the end of a school year looking forward to the start of the next one.

However, there is no reason why it cannot be started at any point during the school year. Depending on the context of your school, the size of your Resilience Team, and the actions you wish to undertake, it is difficult to predict how long it will take you to complete all three chapters and become a resilient school. Nevertheless, we would expect you review the context of your school at least annually to reflect the changing needs of each new cohort of students.

Although your journey into becoming a resilient school will be unique to the needs of your setting, it will be useful to share ideas of best practice with others. For example, the review process will be significantly enhanced if it is undertaken in collaboration with a community of practice including a Critical Friend who will provide an external perspective. This will help self-reflection and evaluation.

The Critical Friend role may be linked to a local network of schools which can support each other in undertaking the review.  Local Critical Friends could include officers from within the Local Authority, external partners, voluntary and community organisations or colleagues from other schools. This validation ensures that the self-review is realistic, rigorous and self-critical, thereby supporting the overall process of self-evaluation and continuous improvement.

The Quality Mark

The aim of the Quality Mark is to support schools and community settings to implement an effective and good quality whole setting approach, described as the ‘Resilience Toolkit’ to emotional health and resilience and sustain it as part of a cycle of improvement. The Quality Mark enables schools and community settings to understand what emerged, established and advanced looks like and celebrates that with a ‘Quality Mark’ which schools and community settings can point to as a sign of their commitment and work.  The aim of the process of implementation is that it encourages schools and community settings to be involved, is simple and staged, supports Ofsted inspection processes and promotes collaboration between schools and settings.

The key principles that underpin the development of the Quality Mark are efficacy and sustainability.

Why an associated quality mark?

Feedback from schools indicate they appreciate a ‘Quality Mark ‘which advertises their commitment and work. The ‘mark’ and the evidence that informs it can also be used to in Ofsted inspections.

A cycle of ‘plan, do and review’ is integral to the toolkit and an established method for quality improvement.


  • is linked to an evidence based framework, in this case the PHE Whole School Framework
  • is flexible enough for schools and settings to be at different stages at the start
  • has a clearly articulated process from expression of interest to review
  • provides a range of data collection tools.

To be awarded the HeadStart Kent Quality Mark Schools/Communities must evidence that the following Criteria have been met:

  • there is support for young people’s emotional well-being at a Senior Leadership Level
  • there is an ethos and environment that promotes respect and values diversity
  • there is a curriculum of social and emotional learning and promoting personal resilience
  • young people are supported to explore and understand their feelings and take responsibility for their emotional well-being
  • staff are able to identify and support vulnerable young people and request additional support, where appropriate
  • young people are supported to voice their opinions and influence decisions
  • parents/carers are encouraged to support the emotional well-being of their children and young people
  • staff are trained to support their own emotional well-being
  • there are monitoring and evaluation systems in place to effectively measure performance and evidence impact against need.

The HeadStart Kent Programme is there to support schools to become resilient and improve the emotional wellbeing of their young people. This can be achieved by using the Resilience Toolkit, developing the Action Plan (XLSX, 28.0 KB) contained within it and utilising other HeadStart Kent resources.

In a resilient school the expectation is:

  • To change the school culture, behaviour and relationships within it, where people feel supported and resilient
  • The local community is measured by a sense of wellbeing, and by the ease and effectiveness of relationships
  • That it will be everybody’s business to understand what resilience is and what to do to help build resilience as well as when to seek additional support
  • There is recognition of the importance of working in an holistic way – that means understanding that a young person’s school experience does not exist in isolation from the rest of their lives and that factors in the pupil, their school, their families and their environment can all be a positive or negative influence in developing resilience
  • That there will be a commitment to co-production, inclusivity and equality and these factors are fundamental to the way in which a resilient school will work
  • To ensure there is a commitment to gathering and using evidence to identify positive resilience building activities, which will inform the action plan for continuous improvement, including:
    • Developing a systematic processes of identifying vulnerable students
    • Ensuring every student has named pastoral lead
    • Providing a safe space
    • A peer mentoring programme
  • To use the resilience domains and framework to support resilience building across the whole organisation and within its community in a systemic way
  • There is an ethos that promotes cultural and religious differences by creating an inclusive and supportive environment

This diagram by Brigid Daniel and Sally Wassall highlights the six resilient areas that can be used for reflection, discussion and action for young people, peer, families and communities. These are evidence based resilience areas and are HeadStart Kent’s approach to developing resilience.

Although many factors can be associated with resilience, there appear to be three fundamental building blocks that underpin a resilient child.

These are:

  • Feeling Secure: sound attachments with carers providing the child with a sense of belonging and security
  • Good self esteem: providing a sense of self worth and of competence
  • Self efficacy or a sense of mastery and control, along with an understanding of personal strengths and limitations

These three building blocks have been developed into a framework for assessment and planning consisting of the following six resilient areas:

Factors within each of these domains of a child's life are known to contribute to a child's level of resilience to adversity such as abuse, neglect and loss.

Wherever possible an identified strength in one domain can be used to boost a weaker domain.  For example, if a young person has a strong attachment to a member of the extended family, but takes no part in activities or hobbies, that attachment figure can be encouraged and supported in helping the young person take part in an activity.

Similarly, if a young person has a good friend but misses a lot of school, consider involving the friend in encouragement to attend, perhaps by arranging for them to travel together.

Register for the free Resilience Toolkit to take you through the Whole School Approach to Resilience