Wolverhampton University publishes evaluation of school-based HeadStart support programmes

It’s like there was a big wall there but now it’s gone.
— A student after experiencing the Penn Resilience Programme

A rigorous evaluation of our work during phase 2 of funding from The Big Lottery Fund is essential for HeadStart Wolverhampton. It allows 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.

An independent evaluation of school-based HeadStart programmes within the city has been 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 focusses on the two main programmes that we have piloted in our phase 2 schools:

From our point of view SUMO took pop psychology, common sense and worldly wisdom and squished into a format that is accessible to kids. It provides a vocabulary that they can access across the school.
— Feedback from a primary teacher about SUMO
  • The Penn Resilience Programme (PRP) in secondary schools
  • SUMO for Schools (Stop, Understand, Move On) in primary schools

The report contains many positive observations and testimonies from these programmes, but also provides 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.


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.

  • For PRP pupils, the benefits of sharing experience were significant, and reported as being very powerful in encouraging alternative perspectives and increasing tolerance and understanding.

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

  • Pupils found the language very accessible in SUMO, giving them a shared vocabulary for talking about emotions and responses to difficult / challenging situations

  • Schools reported innovative ways of adapting both SUMO and PRP delivery to respond to schools' individual needs. Some schools drew on external resources and outside agencies to support program delivery and all pupils could independently draw on skills and techniques.

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

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
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 who has experiences Penn Resilience Programme
I have been better at understanding people ‘cos before I came into Year Five I was always arguing about points of view...I think I’ve let that go...I feel really happy that I’ve got over and sorted that.
— Testimony from a Year 5 student about SUMO


Download the report

Download the executive summary (PDF)

Download the executive summary (PDF)

The executive summary of the report can be downloaded here:

Download the full report (PDF)

Download the full report (PDF)

Download the full report here:



Young people from Edward The Elder Primary sharing their experiences of SUMO with teachers from other schools.

Young people from Edward The Elder Primary sharing their experiences of SUMO with teachers from other schools.

The next phase of school-based training, informed by this evaluation, is already underway.

It’s helped me with friends. I was always having problems with friends but now I can sort them out better.
— Secondary Student who has experiences Penn Resilience Programme

Many thanks to the team at Wolverhampton University for their commitment to the evaluation process, and for informing our next steps in developing programmes with schools in the city.

We will now use this evaluation and other feedback on HeadStart projects to structure compelling, evidence-based proposals as part of our Phase 3 bid for additional funding from The Big Lottery.

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