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Monitoring pupils' mental health and wellbeing: tools
Get an overview of the tools you can use to monitor pupils' mental health and wellbeing, both at an individual and whole-school level.
Decide on the tool that's right for your purpose
There's several reasons why it's important to monitor and assess pupils' mental health and wellbeing. See this toolkit for schools, which outlines various methods for doing it depending on your purpose, including (page 8):
- Providing a 'snapshot' of pupil wellbeing across your school
- Identifying individual pupils who may benefit from early support
- Evaluating the impact of early support and targeted interventions
The toolkit is produced jointly by Public Health England, the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families and other organisations.
See pages 36 to 42 for guidance on introducing new tools to pupils.
Below, we outline resources from the toolkit as well as other tools we've come across in our own research. You can use most of them for free (we've included a £ sign next to the ones that cost money). Any resources from external providers we include does not constitute an endorsement by The Key.
Get a snapshot of the needs across your whole school
Pyramid of need
What is it? A method that helps you record individual pupils' wellbeing in a way that also gives an overview of whole-school wellbeing. Developed by the mental health charities Boingboing and YoungMinds.
How does it work? You can use existing pupil data to identify which pupils are most 'at risk', such as pupils who aren't making academic progress or reaching their potential due to obstacles beyond their control. There's a rating for each risk factor, and points are added up for each pupil.
Risk factors include:
- Special educational needs (SEN)
- Eligibility for free school meals (FSM)
- Being in care
- Poor attendance and/or behaviour
Staff can see which pupils in their year or tutor group are 'high', 'medium' or 'low' risk and act accordingly
Download the pyramid of need from Boingboing's website.
Example from Hove Park School in Brighton
Teachers use the pyramid of need by calculating pupils' risk scores in a spreadsheet first in the following way:
- Pupils' names are written in the left-hand side column
- Risk factors go in the column headings at the top
- A score for each risk factor is entered by each pupil's name
- Scores are added together to create a 'vulnerability index' for each pupil
Then, pupils are placed at different levels of the pyramid based on their levels of need/risk - those with the highest risk rating are at the top and those with the lowest rating are at the bottom.
In this way, staff can see which pupils in their year or tutor group are 'high', 'medium' or 'low' risk and act accordingly (for example, through targeted interventions).
Jim Roberts, deputy headteacher at the school, explained this to us.
Watch the video below to find out more about how the school uses this approach and why it's effective.
Academic resilience audit
What is it? A set of tools to help you assess the levels of resilience in disadvantaged pupils across your school. Developed by Boingboing and YoungMinds.
How does it work?
Audit tools include a:
- Table of questions you can ask to determine whether you're promoting factors that contribute to academic resilience
- 'Resilience framework' that outlines evidence-based approaches to promoting resilience
- Questionnaire for your senior leadership team (SLT) on whether certain aspects of school life promote resilience
Access their audit resources from Boingboing's website.
Thrive-Online tracking tool (£)
What is it? An online assessment, action-planning and monitoring tool for gathering data on pupils' social and emotional development.
How does it work?
It uses data to help you:
- Identify classes with pupils who need additional support
- Develop termly whole-class and one-to-one action plans
- Provide impact data for different audiences, including parents, governors, local authorities, academy trust boards and Ofsted
Find out more about the tool from Thrive's website.
Pupil wellbeing surveys
You can use these to assess pupils' overall wellbeing, bullying, physical activity and healthy eating. See example questionnaires you can use to collect information this information.
Identify individual pupils who need support
Only trained professionals should attempt to make a diagnosis of a mental health problem, but your staff are well placed to identify pupils whose behaviour suggests they might have a mental health problem or be at risk of developing one. This is outlined on pages 14-15 of Keeping Children Safe in Education 2021.
Use Safeguarding Training Centre from The Key to train your staff on mental health and how to identify concerns. There's ready-to-deliver sessions on:
- Pupil mental health: deepening understanding
- Reintegrating pupils following school closure
If you're not yet a member of Safeguarding Training Centre find out more here.
Expression of concern forms
What are these? Forms that teachers fill in when they have a concern about a pupil. Individual forms are discussed in regular meetings to decide courses of action. The purpose is to flag problems early and contribute to regular discussions of how individual pupils are doing.
Example from Pimlico Academy in Westminster
The school's inclusion department discusses expression of concern forms in weekly meetings.
The inclusion team will decide the next course of action. These include:
- Immediate action internally or externally
- Wait and monitor
- Child assigned to relevant lead (the deputy SENCO, head of emotional and social support, or head of language and communication support)
See page 29 of the wellbeing toolkit for more information.
What is it? A 5-stage system for pupils to express their own levels of wellbeing. It's used by the Brooklands Farm Primary School in Milton Keynes to monitors pupils’ wellbeing.
How does it work?
- At the start and end of each day, each class has a 'check in circle' where pupils share where they think they are on the wellbeing scale:
- Level 5 is the highest and shows that the pupil is happy and ready to learn
- Level 1 is the lowest and suggests that the pupil is unhappy and does not want to be in school
- If a pupil is at level 1 or 2, the class can ask the pupil what the problem is, offer support, and encourage the pupil to determine what the individual can do to boost their wellbeing level
- Throughout the day, pupils are encouraged to check in with themselves where they are on the scale. For pupils on a level 1 or 2 at the start of the day, teachers will also ask them about their level and support them to feel better
- If pupils are slipping down the scale, they are encouraged to think about things that could make them feel better and to seek support from peers or staff
As a result, pupils are ready to learn and the system has also had a positive impact on behaviour
What's the impact?
Executive headteacher Maxine Low told us that the system helps tackle issues early on in the day.
For example, if a pupil is at level 1 or 2 due to:
- Lack of sleep, they can have a nap in a quiet room
- Not having breakfast, the teacher will provide something to eat
As a result, pupils are ready to learn. The system has also had a positive impact on behaviour.
Assess individual pupils
Note: you should always use any tools for assessing pupils alongside staff members’ knowledge about that child, based on conversations about how the child feels. This is explained on page 11 of the wellbeing toolkit.
Strengths and difficulties questionnaire (SDQ)
What is it? A brief behavioural screening questionnaire for 3 to 16-year-olds
- 25 close-ended questions that cover aspects including emotional symptoms, conduct problems and hyperactivity/inattention
- An impact supplement that assesses the extent to which mental health problems have had an impact on aspects of the child's life
Download the scoring sheet from the Mentally Healthy Schools' website.
Boxall profile (£)
What is it? An online survey that assesses social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, and provides recommendations for interventions. The survey has 2 sections, and scores for individual pupils are compared against age-related emotional literacy scores.
Get more information about the tool on page 48 of the wellbeing toolkit.
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