Understanding the evidence

We want this website to give school staff high-quality information and practical resources to help you support your pupils’ mental health and wellbeing.

The content of the site has been built around core academic evidence. It has also been quality assured by clinical experts, together with feedback from a panel of teachers and school leaders.

The evidence

The academic evidence used includes references to the following sources:

Why evidence is important

We all make judgements about the effectiveness of various strategies, lesson plans, approaches and ‘tools’ that might make a difference to children and their education. Most of the time, these judgements work well, but sometimes we can put a lot of effort into using activities which, in the end, may waste time, resources and important opportunities  to improve children’s mental health and wellbeing. Research tells us that some things we think work well make no difference at all. A few can actually make things worse for some children.

So, having solid research evidence can give us the confidence that what we’re doing has the best chance of actually having a positive impact.

On this site, we’ve tried to provide a simple overview of the evidence underpinning the  resources we’ve included. Most whole-school programmes and targeted, small group work activities, for example, have been well researched. Some also have evidence of their long-term impact. This evidence  can also tell you, with some confidence, what type of changes they can promote.

Others (such as most lesson plans and PSHE modules) will not have been tested to the same level so we cannot be absolutely sure that  they actually result in the changes they aim to achieve. They may, however, be accredited or developed/funded/supported by government departments and agencies. If there is a lack of robust evidence to support the use of a programme, strategy or approach you want to use, you could carry out your own simple evaluation to provide reassurance  that what you’re doing is making a difference to your pupils. Tracking outcomes at this level could also be used to demonstrate the impact of things such as Pupil Premium spending or SEND support, as well as showcasing health and wellbeing activity for Ofsted.

Understanding levels of evidence

The table below gives a broad and very simplified outline of the different levels of evidence used on this site.

There is a more detailed and technical explanation of these research levels on the Early Intervention Foundation’s website

Level What it means
Indicates that the lesson plan/programme has a broad theory of change (a logic model) – it knows what it wants to change, identifies what activities will promote change, with a logic between aims and activities. See: the Anna Freud Centre for Children and Families website and this Open University introductory video for more information.
Means that the theory of change has been tested with at least 20 children using good quality ‘before and after’ testing and has resulted in the changes you’d expect. However, most children may not have completed before and after testing.
Means that the theory of change has been tested with at least 20 children using standardised pre and post-tools and testing and activity has resulted in the changes you’d expect. Over two thirds of the total sample have completed before and after testing.
At this level, you should have a greater confidence that the lessons/programme are likely to achieve the changes you are looking for and that they won’t be just the result of chance.

The theory of change for the programme/lessons has been tested using pre and post-testing with many children. It may also be comparing their progress with other pupils’ achievements who may not have been exposed to these lessons/programmes. To do this properly, researchers use various statistical methods to match children in the control group and those in the ‘intervention’ group. This is important to make sure that you don’t end up comparing ‘apples’ with ‘pears’.
At this stage, the lesson plan/programme might have been tested through a number of research studies, including a range of control groups, and will have repeated/constant positive results.
At this stage, the lesson plan/programme might have been tested through a number of research studies using before and after testing and comparing pre and post-tests with those completed by control groups who have not been exposed to the lesson plan/programme. It will have maintained positive results across the majority of these studies. Studies may also have followed children’s outcomes over time and established that some degree of change is maintained. These longer term studies can then help evaluators make assessments of the cost effectiveness of programmes and who are the main beneficiaries of these savings.

Further information