Measuring wellbeing and mental health in schools

Measuring wellbeing in schools
When discussing mental health I often get asked on the best way to measure wellbeing by school leaders and educational professionals.

Before answering the question it is worth considering the desire and risks of measuring. 
Why measure wellbeing in schools?
Like any activity before diving in, it is important to step back and consider what you aim to achieve. What purpose will measuring wellbeing achieve? Who will it benefit? How will you know it is working as you intended? What power dynamics exist, are they what you want to maintain? Are students involved in the decision-making processes? How will you handle the data? How will you respond to the answers/findings? 
 
Overall, how will this strengthen the approach to mental health in your setting? 
 
By answering these questions it will help determine the most appropriate measurement approach, but also ensure clarity about why you are doing it. 
Possible risks?
UK students are measured a lot compared to their international peers. Likewise, too many teachers feel that they are tracked and monitored excessively. How can any new wellbeing measurement approach not add to this already approach towards measuring all aspects of our lives? 
 
There are also risks associated with possibly reinforcing negative stereotypes and stigma, and leaving those students who already feel unheard, even more so. Involving staff, pupils, and parents in the process is key. 
 
What other risks exist – how can you manage these? 
 
Reading key papers from the Centre for Mental Health will help the school to consider these, and other key issues, before you start giving out any surveys. 
What tool can schools use to measure wellbeing?
The two steps above are the most important. Indeed, choosing the tool will be much easier once you are clear on what you aim to achieve and have identified the associated risks.
 
There is no one tool for schools to use. There is a mix of tools, covering a range of areas and from a range of perspectives. The most comprehensive toolkit was developed by Public Health England and is probably the main one for schools to access.
 
There are also national measurement results, which schools can draw on to devise their own questions. The main one is the Annual Good Childhood Report by the Children’s Society.
 
More recently, the Department for Education has started to produce a State of Nation Report on Children and Young People’s Wellbeing which also draws on other reports, such as the Good Childhood Report. 
 
The Fair Education Alliance had an online discussion on measuring wellbeing which you can watch:
Staff wellbeing
The same approach exists for staff wellbeing – being clear on the purpose and managing the risks of any measurement approaches.  

A good survey starting point is the annual survey by Education Support. Education Support can also run a survey in your setting and provide an analysis of the results for a fee, which is worth considering if you are seeking to get a comprehensive summary along with benchmarking to similar settings. 
Qualified mental health support in schools and colleges

At Minds Ahead, we have worked with partners to research, design and deliver innovate Masters programmes that are the first of their kind. 

We offer a masters award to school leaders and a Mental Health Specialist postgraduate diploma to colleagues who support pastoral care. Both qualifications are studied online while working so that the knowledge and skills learnt are applied immediately within their setting and tailored to that establishment’s needs.