Evaluating school programmes in HeadStart Wolverhampton

A rigorous evaluation of our work during phase 2 of funding from The Big Lottery Fund was essential for HeadStart Wolverhampton. It allowed us to reflect on the impact of HeadStart upon the mental well-being and resilience of young people in the city, and use what we've learned to make further improvements to services.

In November 2015, an independent evaluation of school-based HeadStart programmes within the city was published by Sarah Elsey, Liz Coleyshaw, and Karl Royle, from the Centre for Developmental and Applied Research in Education, at the University of Wolverhampton. The evaluation focussed on the two main programmes that we have piloted in our phase 2 schools.

  • The Penn Resilience Programme (PRP) in secondary schools
  • SUMO for Schools (Stop, Understand, Move On) in primary schools

The report contained many positive observations and testimonies from these programmes, but also provided us with valuable insights into challenges and obstacles that staff and students in school must overcome to truly embed strategies for improving mental health and resilience into their day-to-day lives.

I have problems with my anger but it’s changed in a healthy way so if I have issues with my mum and dad, later on I can come back in the room and have a conversation about it. I’ve calmed down and can have a sensible adult conversation
— Secondary Student following Penn Resilience Programme

Selected findings

  • Both staff and pupils responded positively to the programs and both programs were seen as a useful addition to the work and life of the schools.

  • Pupils were better able to deal with challenges they face and there was a tangible improvement in terms of pupil behaviour.

  • There was a noticeable increase in the capacity of pupils to draw on resources/strategies that support and sustain well-being and resilience. Pupils understood the objectives of the programs and recognised the positive influence the programs had upon attitudes and behaviours.

  • Staff-to-pupil and pupil-to-pupil relationships had seen a marked improvement

  • Other positive impacts included increased confidence, improved decision-making skills, an increase in self-esteem, and improved stress management and reflective skills.

Karl Royle discusses the University evaluation of HeadStart Wolverhampton programmes (Audio interview)

My relationship with Miss is much better now. I understand her expectations. Before, she would get me mad. I thought she didn’t like me and I would just walk out but now I get it. I understand and we get on now
— - Year 6 student following SUMO sessions