Tools for monitoring pupils’ mental health and wellbeing

Posted by Ewa Jozefkowicz on Oct 25, 2019 2:11:17 PM


Pupil wellbeing comes very high on the agenda for most schools, but some leaders struggle with monitoring it. In this blog post we outline some of the tools that can be used to track wellbeing among students including a resilience audit, wellbeing scale and pyramid of need.

Pyramid of need

Boingboing, a mental health charity specialising in developing resilience, and the charity YoungMinds, a youth mental health charity, have collaborated to create a tool for recording individual pupils' wellbeing in a way which also gives an overview of whole-school wellbeing.

Schools can use existing pupil data to identify which pupils are most at risk in terms of their wellbeing, by creating a 'pyramid of need'.

Pupils who are 'at risk' in this context are those who are not making academic progress or reaching their potential, due to obstacles beyond their control.

Risk factors include:

  • Special educational needs (SEN)
  • Eligibility for free school meals (FSM)
  • Being in care
  • Poor attendance and/or behaviour

The system uses data about risk factors for individual pupils to map their needs at a whole-school, year group and tutor group level.

Each factor is given a rating and points are added up for each pupil. Pupils are placed at different levels of the 'pyramid of need' based on their levels of need/risk, with those with the highest risk rating at the top of the pyramid and those with the lowest at the bottom.

This allows staff to see which pupils in their year or tutor group are 'high', 'medium' or 'low' risk and act accordingly (for example, through targeted interventions).

You can see examples of how interventions can be targeted according to need on this slide. This website includes an explanation of the pyramid of need. 

Resilience audit

The boingboing website also explains how schools can assess levels of resilience among pupils through an audit. It says that by carrying out activities such as surveys and focus groups, a school can find out how well it helps disadvantaged pupils to do better than might be expected.

The organisation provides a set of evidence-based tools made in collaboration with YoungMinds that schools can use for the audit process, including:

  • An audit table that sets out factors that contribute to academic resilience and the questions the school should ask to determine whether it is promoting these factors
  • An interactive 'resilience framework' outlining specific approaches to promoting resilience and the evidence behind them
  • A questionnaire for the senior leadership team (SLT) on the extent to which aspects of school life promote resilience

Click here to find out more about this approach. 

Wellbeing scale

At Brooklands Farm Primary School in Milton Keynes, pupils’ wellbeing is monitored throughout the day.

The school uses a five-stage system that pupils can use to express their levels of wellbeing. Level 5 is the highest level of wellbeing, indicating 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.

How does it work in practice?

At the start of the day, each class sits down for a ‘check-in circle’, at which each pupil tells the group where he/she is on the scale of wellbeing. If a pupil is at level 1 or 2, other pupils and the class teacher can ask the pupil what the problem is, offer support, and encourage the pupil to determine what he/she can do to boost his/her wellbeing level.

The teacher will also be aware that this pupil may need extra support throughout the day.

The scale is also used throughout the day, with pupils encouraged to check with themselves periodically where they are at on the scale. Where pupils feel they are slipping down the scale, they know to think about what could make them feel better, and to seek support from peers or staff if needed.

Staff will also monitor pupils’ wellbeing throughout the day, asking any pupils who they have concerns about to consider their level on the scale and what can be done to push them up it. Pupils then share their wellbeing levels again at another check-in circle at the end of the day.

The school website includes a news item about pupils demonstrating how their levels of wellbeing correspond to the effectiveness of their learning, through 'learning zones' 1-5. 

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Topics: wellbeing, mental health