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This page includes information about:

  • screening tools and how to use them
  • identifying interventions for a child
  • how to measure interventions

Context

Some pupils will need additional support with their mental health. But who are they and how do you decide which is the most effective intervention?

The Department for Education guidance on measurement recommends:

  • using screening tools to make the best use of data
  • developing an effective pastoral system in which students are known well by at least one staff member, so that deteriorating behaviour or mental health do not go unnoticed.

It’s important to remember school and college staff are not expected to be experts in mental health or make diagnoses, but they are expected to have clear processes in place for identifying possible mental health problems and be able to signpost children and young people and their families to services when needed.

Screening tools and how to use them

Screening tools are questionnaires or checklists to help assess children and young people’s mental health or wellbeing.

As well as offering a broad ‘temperature check’ of pupils in a year group, they can help you identify:

  • who might benefit from support
  • the type and level of difficulties pupils are experiencing

You can use screening tools to identify individual pupils who may need additional support as part of a needs assessment or more widely for a larger group – for example, if has been a bereavement in a class. They can also be used to assess and evaluate whether the interventions you’ve put in place are making a difference to a cohort such as a year group or the whole school or college community.

When using a screening tool, it is important to talk to pupils about it. They need to know why they are being asked questions, how their answers will be used and who will see them. This is particularly important when these tools are used with an individual child as they may raise safeguarding concerns.

You will also need to have a plan or signposting in place to ensure that children and young people can access support and information about helplines if they have any concerns. See 'signpost information' action in Leading Change.

Recommended screening tools

Our Wellbeing Toolkit lists several screening tools that you can use to identify children who need support. One of the most commonly used is the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires (SDQ).

More information about tools to measure individual wellbeing can be found in our toolkit and on the CORC website.

Screening tools are helpful, but they are only part of the process of understanding a child or young person’s needs. Looking at the experiences of others in the school or college community, of parents and carers, and of the young person themselves will provide additional insight into a pupil’s mental health.

Identifying interventions

To identify the right support, you need to know what’s available. Your local authority will have a list of services and you can also explore our Youth Wellbeing Directory, which lists over 1,200 local services. The Early Intervention Foundation guidebook can help identify interventions.

Armed with this knowledge, the information you’ve gathered about a child or young person’s needs and advice from mental health professionals, you can discuss the list of services available with a pupil, approach an appropriate service and decide together on the best support. It is essential that the pupil is involved and has a say throughout.

It is also important to work closely with health services and help them to understand the support needs of your school or college has and requires establishing strong links with health services. The Anna Freud Centre runs the free, DfE-funded Link Programme, which brings together health and education services to help you shape the services you need which can help. If you are interested in joining your local Link programme, contact your local Clinical Commissioning Group.

Measuring interventions

Measuring interventions helps you to identify what is working and what is not, and where to invest in the future. It is also something that Ofsted takes seriously, and good practice, such as monitoring individual or targeted groups of children with identified needs, will be recognised.

To monitor the impact of pastoral interventions you will need to have a pre-identified set of criteria that you have shared with the child or young person, parent or carer, and others.

All schools are different, as are all children, so it’s important to use a validated tool and then measure the intervention to see whether it is having the expected impact and pupils or staff are really benefitting. It can be helpful to use the same tool at the start of the intervention process and then again at the end, to show what changes may be happening. This could be useful in terms of planning future support.

You can find more information about measuring interventions in our Wellbeing Toolkit, in which we identify seven stages to implementing and evaluating mental health and wellbeing measurements in schools and colleges.

Information about urgent helplines is available here.

Resources

EBPU: Logic Model

This logic model can help you to set out what you want to achieve with an intervention and how to measure its impact.

Mentally Healthy Schools: Emotional check-in

This written resource supports children and young people not only express their feelings but identify why they are feeling a particular way. 

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