Exploring whole-system intervention to improve mental health and wellbeing through schools.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Brighton
Department Name: Sch of Applied Social Sciences

Abstract

The integration of health and education policy and practice, with a specific focus on the role of schools in mental health education and preventative intervention, is of major topical concern. There is strong support in the existing literature on the importance of taking a whole systems approach to supporting young peoples' mental health through schools. However, there is a need to further understand the complexity of this process, including the potential impact on school climate, as well as staff and pupil outcomes.

In 2015, I began my PhD research study in order to investigate this research gap, focusing on an example of whole-system (WS) mental health intervention across a county in the North of England. The initiative was commissioned by Public Health England and developed in partnership between local authority services and schools. Eighteen schools participated in the resulting locally facilitated WS implementation, which was based on the Academic Resilience Approach (ARA, Hart & Williams, 2018), developed by Professor Angie Hart and other colleagues at the UoB and partner organisations. The ARA aims to improve outcomes for the most vulnerable pupils by building resilience across the school community, taking a whole systems perspective.

A fully integrated and embedded mixed method design was utilised. This enabled me to research the experiences of multi-professional staff from schools and local authority services, exploring the perceived impact of the intervention at multiple system levels and considering the potential sustainability of this project in the future. Results of the study showed that there was a significant improvement in staff perceptions of school climate as a result of school engagement in the ARA. In addition, both school and local authority staff reported improved communication, a greater sense of shared values, and increased participative decision making. Existing research suggests that these changes establish the foundation to improve outcomes for the most disadvantaged pupils, although further research is required in order to understand the mechanisms that result in impact for YP.

This fellowship provides the opportunity to maximise the impact of these important PhD findings, through disseminating the results of the study with key stakeholders in four local areas in the UK that are engaging in WS approaches to health promotion in schools. These findings will be beneficial to both practitioners (e.g. school staff) and policy makers (e.g. Local Authorities) because they will help to understand the potential school wide outcomes and optimal conditions associated with WS approaches. My results also help staff in local areas to identify 'school readiness' to engage in this type of approach and help to prepare and support school staff, making it more likely the approach will have a positive impact for pupils. Building on established networks in these four local areas, learning can be shared between different regions. During the fellowship, further research will also be carried out in order to explore pupil experiences of WS approaches, extending the findings from my PhD. Learning from my PhD will be distributed via multiple and diverse platforms including on online blogs, at national conferences, and through paper publications in internationally recognised journals. This fellowship is also ideally suited to develop my own research skills and networks, and to enable me to contribute to the urgent priority of developing dynamic and collaborative approaches to multi-sector promotion of public health and other social policy priorities.
 
Title Illustrated summary of findings from PhD research developed with a professional illustrator and produced in both digital and hard copy format for sharing with multiple stakeholders and as a stimulus for Knowledge Exchange events to prompt discussion of 
Description Working alongside a professional illustrator (Rebecca Osbourne), key findings from the PhD thesis were distilled into main points for an illustrated output. Having worked extensively in the dissemination of findings, public and policy engagement, Rebecca was able to advise on appropriate formats for the illustration. An ilustrated summary of findings from PhD research was produced in both digital and hard copy format for sharing with multiple stakeholders and as a stimulus for Knowledge Exchange events to prompt discussion of relevance and impact of findings in a range of different contexts. A version was also produced with questions and space to respond to invite stakeholders attending the Knowledge Exchange events to share how they might use the research findings, their experience of the Knowledge Exchange or a connection made through this event to inform their own research / practice. 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2020 
Impact The illustration has been used in presentations at all the Knowledge Exchange events and presentations involved in this research project to initiate and deepen discussion between professionals. Multiple school staff requested extra copies to use in their own school training and development, and both Newham and Blackpool Headstart schools co-ordinators requested to have extra copies for school facilitators / school leads as part of the research findings being incorporated into school training 
 
Title Images based on participant data (Fellowship research) 
Description This image set (18 original images) summarises participant choices of imagery to represent or symbolise their experiences of being a member of UK school staff during Covid-19 during lockdown (1st Lockdown in June). The images were produced by artist Rebecca Osborne and shared with participants.They may also form part of an article about methodology for the research and reports for practitioners /policy makers based on findings. 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2020 
Impact Anticipated impact: gaining traction for journal article on publication. Use of images for future academic article about methodology. Use of images for accessible report o accompany article. 
 
Title Shock Absorbers: School staff experiences of leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic 
Description A short animated video summarising findings shared in a presentation to the BELMAS conference 2021 for a wider audience. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact Generating discussion with colleagues from other academic institutions in this country and others (including Turkey and Australia) who have been involved in related research Shared with trainee SENCOs on the University of Chichester NASENC training in relation to leader wellbeing and resilience input (approx 30 students). Shared with trainee MA students on the MA Inclusive and Special Ed route as part of whole school approaches to promoting wellbeing (approx 10 students). Shared via Twitter and publicly available internationally on Youtube. Approx 200 views from different IP accounts. 
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAoyULZqBt4
 
Title Through the Fog: School staff experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic 
Description This video provides a visual summary of findings from research carried out in June 2020 which aimed to explore school staff experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic, including the impact on staff wellbeing and mental health. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2020 
Impact This video has been seen by more than 400 people in both the UK and globally.There has been significant interest in the video on Twitter and the PI has received requests for more information, a request to support a student with her research, interest from other researchers who were doing similar research pre-during the pandemic. The video is a visual abstract of a journal article (under review)which will increase traction and interest in the article and ensure the key findings are accessible beyond academic audiences. 
URL https://youtu.be/5ld2rPaeE4k
 
Title Whole school approaches - an explainer video 
Description A video summarising the narrative of findings relating to whole school approaches in complex school systems. Intended to inform practice of planning, implementing and evaluating whole school approaches as well as inform future research. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJTFEWPGuK8 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact Academics and practitioners requested further information and were directed to the full thesis and other output for schools based on the resilience framework. I have been invited to speak about this research at a conference in June I was invited to write two articles ( for BERA bites and Research Intelligence ) based on this summary 
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJTFEWPGuK8
 
Description Qualitative research carried out in June 2020 aimed to explore school staff experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic, including the impact on staff wellbeing and mental health.

A paper has been co-authored by Dr. Josie Maitland and Professor Jonathan Glazzard and submitted to an academic journal (currently under review) summarising the key findings which cover these main areas:
Articulating school staff experiences of navigating multiple transitions during the pandemic
Summarising Key protective and risk factors relating to the impact on staff wellbeing during the first 'lockdown'
Considering what we learnt or re-learnt during this time about staff wellbeing and resilience, with reference to the existing literature.

Broadly the findings suggested that some aspects of staff wellbeing have been negatively impacted by the experience of Covid-19 during the first partial school closure - but that this was a complex picture due to the dynamic and multidimensional nature of staff resilience. Many protective (e.g. collegial support, the connection to professional values and importance of relationships with pupils) and risk factors (e.g. lack of participative decision making, workload) were brought into sharp focus by the pandemic but already existed before. Some issues which influenced wellbeing seemed specifically linked to the pandemic - e.g. lack of contact and connection with pupils, increased accessibility of CPD/ learning and reflection on curriculum. Some key protective factors which were more possible during lockdown included taking regular exercise, healthy eating, hobbies and interests and collegial support/networks of support from outside own school. There was some suggestion that there may be tensions / different perspectives between staff at home (e.g. shielding) and those in school which may be important when schools fully reopen. There was a strong suggestion that trust needed to be rebuilt between government and school staff due to issues around communication and lack of consultation. There was a strong suggestion that there has been an opportunity to reflect not only about staff wellbeing but also about core values and principles of the education system and a desire to retain this learning, or build back differently as a result.

These findings were also shared in an online free event aimed at researchers and practitioners hosted by BERA (British Educational Research Association) and the recording is publicly available.

As a separate piece of work, the main findings from my doctoral research around whole school wellbeing have been made into a film and shared online as well as presented to multiple local authorities (Newham, Blackpool, West Sussex) and to school staff, parents and academics (Institute of Education and the University of Brighton). This research has been written about in two other published articles - the first appearing in BERA Bites and the second in Research Intelligence.
Exploitation Route Further research into the impact on staff wellbeing of Covid-19 is being carried out and I am in contact with two teams of researchers carrying out longitudinal studies to inform their research and to share collective findings at a symposium event. Findings are being used to inform professional training, reflection and to inform decision making around staff wellbeing priorities for schools. The published article will help to lobby government to establish more effective participative decision making with school staff, highlight the need for effective communication of policy / guidance etc.
My doctoral research has informed a new PhD study (sharing my survey tool) which I have advised on as part of this post-doc fellowship.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education

 
Description A video summarising the findings was produced with a designer and illustrator, this has been viewed more than 500 times nationally and internationally. I have had confirmation of the video being used as training materials for school staff wellbeing themed inset on full reopening of schools (2020), as part of Educational Psychology CPD and preparation to work with schools during Covid (IOW and Hampshire), shared with undergraduate and teacher training students at multiple Universities (including Chichester, Leeds Beckett, Edge Hill). The video was requested by the National Wellbeing Director for the Schools Advisory Service (Andy Mellor) to be used in a presentation to the Department for Education (DfE regarding learning from Covid-related research and implications for policy and practice. A second video was created summarising my doctoral research which has been widely shared. The summary narrative produced has been used to inform Headstart school based resilience intervention planning in Blackpool, Newham and West Sussex. School leaders and teachers made contact requesting links to tools used in the research or the full thesis, which was shared with them to inform their own wellbeing policy planning. My findings have also informed a new PhD project, which extends my research and utilises one of my data collection tools. A third video reported on findings particularly related to leaders' experiences of the pandemic, and summarised a conference presentation from the 2021 British Educational Leadership, Management and Administration conference. This has been shared publicly and also with students on the NASENC SENCO training qualification and Masters' students at the University of Chichester. A journal article has been accepted for publication (Cambridge Journal of Education) open access, summarising the findings from this research project.
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Influence on Policy and practice in relation to staff wellbeing during Covid-19
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact The findings in relation to the impact of Covid-19 experiences on School Staff wellbeing have had national an international reach, even prior to the publication in a journal of the full findings. This is thanks to the video abstract created and shared publicly, which has generated a great deal of interested and been able to be used to initiate local and national debate about priorities around staff wellbeing when schools reopened fully. The video has been used as part of staff development and inset in schools, Educational Psychology CPD, and accessed by practitioners in a range of education focused roles via twitter. Feedback suggests that the video has helped those working in education to articulate what the challenging work conditions have been like during Covid, potentially contesting what school staff perceived to be public lack of support for staff or a misconception that staff were not working/did not want to return to schools. The full paper (under review) makes government policy recommendations as well as recommendations for school and county level policy and practice.
 
Description University of Brighton Strategic Development Fund - Quality Development
Amount £2,000 (GBP)
Funding ID SPF-QR 
Organisation University of Brighton 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2020 
End 04/2020
 
Title Interviews with UK School Staff during the COVID-19 Pandemic, 2020. Title: Interviews with UK School Staff during the COVID-19 Pandemic, 2020 Study number (SN): 854795 Access: These data are safeguarded Persistent identifier: 
Description The interview schedule aimed to address the following research questions: 1) What changes have school staff experienced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in their own lives, in the school climate or their professional role? 2) What has the impact of these changes been on school staff mental health and wellbeing? 3) What factors do school staff perceive to have sustained or improved wellbeing during the pandemic? Therefore data consists of participant responses to these questions. Data are safeguarded. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2022 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact n/a (recent deposit) 
URL https://beta.ukdataservice.ac.uk/datacatalogue/studies/study?id=854795
 
Description British Educational Research Association BERA Research Blog online article 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I was invited to contribute a short article to the Special Edition BERA Blog February 2020: 'Researching Education and Mental Health: From where are we now to what next?' My article focused on the need to consider staff as part of whole school approaches to mental health and posited that school based complexity must be considered by policy makers, practitioners and researchers. The article was published in the second part of the special edition, which focused on staff wellbeing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog-series/researching-education-and-mental-health-from-where-are-we-now-to-...
 
Description Institute of Education, UCL Public Seminar Series 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A one hour seminar was held in order to share work from the PhD research findings - staff perceptions of whole school approaches to building resilience and mental health. The PI was invited to give this seminar by the Institute of Education as part of their public seminar series after the organiser saw the pI presenting work at the BERA conference. The audience included professionals from third sector organisations / charities or social enterprises working with schools around mental health and resilience, Post Grad students who asked questions about the research in the light of their own findings, academics from IOE, senior school leaders and other school staff. A Q and A session enabled the attendees to make links with their own research / practice, request more information or build on the findings shared to develop their own thinking/practice. After the session, a request was made to make the video of the seminar session publically available via Lecturecast which the pI has consented to. There were three requests from those unable to attend for a link to the PhD thesis and the presentation slides, which have been shared, and an academic at the IOE arranged a further meeting, at which the PI was invited to partner with academics at IOE on a publication about whole school /universal approaches that is in the process of being planned. The proposed IOE publication will include a systematic review of literature in relation to universal approaches to mental health and wellbeing nd will be aimed at practitioners, researchers and policy makers. The PI was asked to partner in developing guidance for schools and to be involved in collating some case study examples of school practice. The PI has agreed to be consulted about this when the project is underway.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Knowledge Exchange Event Blackpool 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A Knowledge Exchange Event was facilitated in Blackpool to share PhD research findings and consider their local relevance and impact the findings might have for the Blackpool Resilience Revolution in schools. The event was held at a Community centre and 45 schools were invited to attend. This included feedback from and engagement with Headstart professionals (Head of school engagement, school facilitators, trainers etc), school staff (senior leaders, wellbeing and pastoral staff and teachers), a PhD student and a Research Fellow working on research around whole school resilience building approaches. A short presentation was given about the PhD research and key findings. Interactive activities were prepared for participants to explore similarities and differences between staff perspectives reported in the PhD research and workshop participants' own experiences. Feedback was collated and discussed as a group, including a specific focus on how this research could have impact back in the practice setting / future collaborations between participants. Attendees discussed how to make staff wellbeing a clearer focus of whole school approaches, agreeing that this was an important future direction of the Academic Resilience Approach (ARA). A request was made to share the original thesis and also the slides from the presentation. After the event, slides and minutes of the workshop activities and discussion points were shared with everyone in the existing Blackpool School Community of Practice (CoP), which includes all staff in 45 schools. It was agreed that a future event would be organised to share the findings from workshops with young people in Blackpool schools in September 2020.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Knowledge Exchange Event Newham 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A Knowledge Exchange Event was facilitated in Newham at a Primary school to share PhD research findings and consider their local relevance and impact the findings might have for schools in Newham developing a whole school approach to mental health and resilience, supported by Headstart Newham. This included feedback from and engagement with Headstart professionals (Head of school engagement, school facilitators and trainers), school staff (senior leaders, wellbeing and pastoral staff and teachers), two Post-Doc researchers with a focus on whole school resilience building approaches. A short presentation by each Post-Doc was given about the PhD research and key findings. Interactive activities were prepared for participants to explore similarities and differences between staff perspectives reported in the PhD research and workshop participants' own experiences. Feedback was collated and discussed as a group, including a specific focus on how this research could have impact back in the practice setting / future collaborations between participants. Attendees discussed how to make staff wellbeing a clearer focus of whole school approaches, agreeing that this was an important future direction of the Academic Resilience Approach (ARA). Attendees discussed how local information, klnowledge and expertise could be preserved and tapped into as part of a whole school approach. The 'whole community' aspect was discussed - with local examples of community organisations and businesses being actively involved in whole school approaches, both to the benefit of staff and pupils. Information was shared from senior leaders about the impact to date of the whole school approach on pupil attendance, behaviour and attainment. Other school staff (teachers and support staff) provided feedback about enabling / constraining factors of staff engagement in whole school approaches (discussed reciprocity, staff adversity, lack of time, competing priorities and professional values). A request was made to share the original thesis and also, more copies of the illustrated output and the slides from the presentation. After the event, slides and minutes of the workshop activities and discussion points were shared with everyone in the existing Newham School Community of Practice (CoP), which includes all staff in participating schools (at least 20 schools). It was agreed that a future event would be organised to share research findings with local head teachers, and to merge Primary and Secondary school interests / compare approaches. The event is proposed to take place in September 2020. A significant impact was that for staff attending from schools who had not yet fully established a whole school approach, feedback suggests that these approaches will have an increased focus on staff wellbeing. In addition, staff made connections with colleagues in other schools who had 'best practice' to share and in their feedback, stated that these practice based examples will inform their planning and practice. The requests for further information are significant in the context of professionals wanting to include this information / research findings in their training in and across schools, thus reaching more people and potentially influencing practice more broadly than those who attended.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Knowledge Exchange Event West Sussex 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A Knowledge Exchange Event was facilitated in West Sussex to share PhD research findings and consider their local relevance and impact the findings might have for West Sussex schools developing their own whole school approaches to mental health and resilience. This included feedback from and engagement with Academic Resilience Approach (ARA) trainers and school staff (including senior leaders, wellbeing and pastoral staff and teachers). The event was held at Sir Robert Woodard Academy and staff from every secondary school in West Sussex were invited. Four schools were also invited to contribute to the event by sharing their experience of developing a whole school resilience building approaches. A short presentation was given about the PhD research and key findings. Staff from four schools presented their own story of developing a whole school approach, describing barriers and enabling factors from their experiences. Feedback was collated and discussed as a group, including a specific focus on how this research could have impact back in the practice setting / future collaborations between participants. Attendees discussed how to make staff wellbeing a clearer focus of whole school approaches, agreeing that this was an important future direction for man participating schools and an area only just beginning to gain traction locally. Many senior leaders commented that the resources (illustrated summary, academic articles from current literature and the PhD thesis) lent support to developing a more robust approach to staff wellbeing as part of their whole school approach. After the event, feedback forms were summarised which showed that every attendee perceived the event to be relevant to their work and could identify how the event might impact their work. Most useful aspects f the seesion from participants' point of view were 'research evidence that informs our practice' , 'knowing where to go for resources', 'practical examples and ideas', 'evolving our current ways of thinking' 'hearing what other schools have been developing' 'thinking more specifically about staff'. After the event, five requests for further information were received, one from a school intending to develop a staff wellbeing policy and seeking support to develop a measure for staff wellbeing to track impact, a request was made to share the original thesis and multiple attendees requested the slides from the presentation to share in whole school CPD. The head of a multi school / college group requested support to develop a whole school approach modelled on the ARA, and has arranged to meet with Josie Maitland and Lisa Williams (ARA facilitator) to consider the influence of research findings, particularly around ensuring all staff are involved in the development. The resulting approach will be implemented in Worthing and Chichester college and possibly other sites. It was agreed that a future event would be useful for more schools in West Sussex, particularly aimed at senior leaders as strategic decision makers with the capacity to influence whole school policy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Online event hosted by BERA: The impact of Covid 19 on the mental health and wellbeing of education professionals, pupils and young people 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact More than 100 people registered for and attended this online event on the 16th July which allowed delegates (BERA members and non-members - academics and practitioners) to understand the ways in which Covid-19 has resulted in different transitions for individuals and the impact of these transitions on their mental health and wellbeing. Considering the factors which act as a buffer to negative transitions which protect individuals from mental ill health, and the implications for future research, policy and practice which arise from the research findings. There were three speakers, two about the impact for young people and I spoke about the impact for school staff based on my fellowship research - tentative findings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.bera.ac.uk/media/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-the-mental-health-and-wellbeing-of-education-...
 
Description Sharing event for Headteachers about evidence infromed approaches to mental health - Stationer's Hall (Education Media Centre) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The Education Media Centre is a charity devoted to raising the profile of evidence based practice in education. They held a one day event for Headteachers (also attended by other professionals working with schools, teachers and researchers interested in this area) to highlight latest research about mental health in schools. The stated aim of the event was to 'inform Headteacher decision making in advance of the compulsory implementation of the new Relationships and Sex Education curriculum in 2020'. 80-100 School leaders attended. After a keynote from Lord Layard, researchers were paired with a leading practitioner to chair a roundtable discussion about an aspect of practice and work on how existing knowledge could shape decision making. The PI was invited to attend as a researcher and share the PhD findings, and talk more broadly about existing literature and what it says about whole school approaches. There were multiple requests for more information, and the PI was able to share free resources (available online), a summary of research findings (illustrated) with many Headteachers who requested access to use these resources to develop their own whole school approach. Many Headteachers expressed an interest in a similar event, and stating that what they had learnt would direct their policy development and decision making -especially in relation to exploring mental health across the curriculum, building resilience and staff wellbeing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019