HeadStart Pilot Evaluation

  • Research Project Team

    • Jessica Deighton
    • Miranda Wolpert
    • Jeni Page
    • Tanya Lereya
    • Emily Stapley


    • Neil Humphrey (University of Manchester)
    • Kate Martin (Common Room)
    • Mia Eisenstadt (Reos Partners)



  • Background

    The HeadStart programme aims to improve the mental wellbeingof at-risk 10-15 year olds by investing in local authorities or partnerships across England to facilitate and support:

    1. The implementation of a locally developed, cross-disciplinary, multi-layered, and integrated prevention strategy, with the young person and their needs at its core
    2. The development of the necessary local conditions to enable that strategy to become sustainable in time
    3. The development of a more robust evidence base around ‘what works’ in the area of mental wellbeing to be proactively shared beyond HeadStart, with the aim of contributing to the national and local policy debate

    During the pilot phase of the programme (Phase 2), the Big Lottery Fund (BLF) awarded 12 partnerships with a grant to implement their own pilot HeadStart programme of interventions (tailored to the needs of their local area) over a two-year period, following their original programme proposals in Phase 1.

    The BLF also contracted an Anna Freud Centre-led consortium to deliver the national evaluation of the Phase 2 programme across the partnerships, which included quantitative and qualitative research components.

  • Aims

    The aims of the evaluation are to:

    • Understand what works (in terms of impact on resilience and positive mental health)
    • How and why it works (consideration of mechanism, process and contextual factors)
    • Barriers and facilitators to implementation
    • The economic impact (quantification of savings due to intervention)
    • Share this learning to inform policy and practice
  • Methodology

    Quantitative research component:

    • Data was collected from schools across the 12 partnerships. It included the Me and My School Questionnaire (to measure emotional and behavioural problems), Child Outcome Rating Scale (to measure psychological distress), Student Resilience Survey (to measure protective factors such as family, school and community connection, peer relationships, self-esteem, empathy, etc.) and EQ5D-Y (to measure impact of health on daily life)
    • A common measurement framework (CMF) is being developed in collaboration with the partnerships for assessing the impact of the programme on young people’s mental wellbeing and resilience

    Qualitative research component:

    • During the initial scoping phase, semi-structured interviews were conducted with members of staff at the 12 partnerships to gain an overview of the HeadStart interventions being delivered at each partnership
    • During the evaluation phase, semi-structured interviews were conducted with young people (aged 10-15) and parents (where applicable) at each partnership about their experiences of receiving a particular intervention