Transforming school support for children and young people’s wellbeing

The wellbeing of children and young people has been declining in recent years. The education system is part of the ‘front line’ in this public health crisis. Our research has transformed the way that schools identify, monitor and provide support for their pupil’s mental health.

Impact highlights

  • The education system is part of the ‘front line’ in the public health crisis relating to children and young people’s wellbeing.
  • Our research has changed the way that schools identify, monitor and provide support for their pupils’ mental health needs.
  • Tens of thousands of children and young people are now benefitting from improved wellbeing support.

Children and young people in the UK are among the least satisfied with their lives in the world. Their wellbeing is declining, and the prevalence of mental health difficulties among them is increasing. Poor mental health and wellbeing impacts not only quality of life and learning during childhood and adolescence, but also health, employment and relationship outcomes in adulthood.

Schools can create a nurturing environment where pupils feel safe and happy; identify and monitor pupil’s mental health needs; provide support for these needs; and refer to and/or deliver specialist provision. However, the status quo is one of unfulfilled potential. For example, existing evidence indicates that research evidence does not inform decision-making about mental health provision in most schools.

To help schools optimize their support for pupils’ wellbeing, our research has (a) identified effective, evidence-based social and emotional learning practices for teachers and schools; (b) developed, piloted and rolled out a system for assessing and monitoring mental health in school settings, while also improving understanding of the factors that influence their wellbeing; (c) demonstrated the utility of school-based screening for mental health needs; and, (d) determined the impact of a range of school-based targeted mental health interventions.

Our wellbeing research has led to increased use of evidence-informed social and emotional learning practices in primary school classrooms. For example, published guidance for schools based on this research has been downloaded more than 12,000 times, with teachers and schools reporting this has improved their knowledge and changed their practices.

In addition, approximately 450 schools in nearly 80 Local Authorities (around a quarter of all LAs in England) have implemented a version of our wellbeing monitoring system, including nearly all secondary schools in Greater Manchester in the #BeeWell programme.

The evidence we generated has also led to the introduction of universal screening and use of data to inform referral for support in Newham and Blackpool, leading to many thousands of children being referred for additional specialist support targeted to their needs.

Finally, our research has enabled Newham to make evidence-based decisions about school-based targeted mental health interventions. This has led to improved experiences and outcomes of more than two thousand vulnerable children.

Ongoing impact

#BeeWell is a programme that aims to promote the wellbeing of young people in everybody’s business.  ​​We are annually surveying young people’s wellbeing in over 160 schools and will use the results, in collaboration with schools and partner organisations, to deliver positive change in all our communities.   Go to gmbewell for more information.

Our new Passport to Success study will help us to understand whether a school-based social and emotional learning intervention can improve children’s mental health. Passport is a programme that aims to improve children’s wellbeing by teaching them skills that help them to cope in difficult situations.

Research detail

Joint researchers

Professor Neil Humphrey
Professor of Psychology of Education
Twitter- @neilhumphreyUoM

Dr Michael Wigelsworth
Senior Lecturer in Psychology of Education
Twitter - mwigelsworth

Professor Pamela Qualter
Professor of Education

Related research

Connected activity