New Report: Promoting Emotional Health, Wellbeing and Resilience in Primary Schools from Public Policy Institute for Wales

The Public Policy Institute for Wales (PPIW) was asked by the Minister for Education and Skills what works in building the emotional resilience of children in primary schools in Wales? and what the Welsh Government might do to support this?

Here, Nancy Hey, our Director at the What Works Centre for Wellbeing on why this report is important:

pro-picWellbeing research is finding that our social and emotional state is a powerful predictor of our wellbeing over many years and it is an area that we know comparatively little about how to improve.  This is not to say that our wellbeing is entirely down to how well we have learnt ‘wellbeing skills’ and nothing to do with external objective circumstances that we can act to improve.  It’s more that this is an area we haven’t looked at as much yet and looks promising.  It has been one of those areas we are sort of expected to learn by osmosis and this report does a great job of highlighting that there are a good range of evidence based programmes now available for schools.

Early research suggests that there are some skills, that can be learnt that are useful in both treatment and prevention. These include resilience, emotional intelligence, CBT and mindfulness for example. They will not be a panacea for social ills but look like they could help many people and need to be tested with matching rigour.  This can be seen from the wide range of organisations also looking at how to help people develop these skill sets including in the workplace, in schools and further education, in supporting later life transitions, in the criminal justice system and through our cultural and sporting activities for all ages.

This report is really helpful in adding to our collective learning across the UK as we start to make sense of the role of social and emotional skills in our wellbeing and the role of our wellbeing in a range of other outcomes that we care about as a country, including academic achievement.   The report included consideration for how social and emotional skills can be reinforced outside of schools and it’s in that context that we welcome the call for a more systematic exploration of what schools can do but it is important that this is done in a way that the learning can be taken from, and shared with, other sectors looking to improve social and emotional skills.

The PPIW worked with Professor Robin Banerjee and Professor Colleen McLaughlin from the University of Sussex to produce:

  • a synthesis of research and policy evaluations relating to school-based strategies to promote emotional health among primary school pupils
  • evidence-based recommendations for Welsh Government policy regarding a national strategy in this area.

The rePPIWrptport makes 16 recommendations on how to develop a carefully planned and well-supported approach to social and emotional learning that is integrated with core educational principles and situated within a connected school.

→ summary report

→ full report






New ONS data: Life in the UK 2016 measures of national wellbeing update

The Office of National Statistics has released Life in the UK 2016, a snapshot of life today across the 10 domains and 41 measures of national wellbeing.

WellbeingwheelOrganised into 10 domains, such as Health, Where we live, Education and skills and Natural environment, the report highlights ‘how we are doing’ as individuals and as a nation and how sustainable this is for the future. The measures include both objective data (for example, healthy life expectancy) and subjective data (for example, satisfaction with health) in order to provide a more complete view of the nation than measures such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) can do alone.

→Assessment of Change on Wellbeing wheel


Of the 41 measures, assessments of change show that 17 have improved while 8 have deteriorated and 11 have stayed the same over the 3 year period.

How are we doing as a nation?

Things which have got better:

  • personal finances:  real median household income and net national disposable income have both risen and the unemployment rate has fallen
  • healthy life expectancy continues to rise for both men and women,
  • the number of crimes against the person has fallen
  • more of us turned out to vote at the last general election than the previous one.
  • environmental measures. Greenhouse gas emissions have fallen, the extent of areas designated as ‘protected’ has grown and a growing proportion of us accessed the natural environment during the 3 year period examined. More energy has been consumed from renewable sources in the last year than in previous years and recycling rates have risen

And worse:

  • The proportions satisfied with their health, accommodation, household income and leisure time have all fallen over the three year period
  • Population mental wellbeing scores fell over the three year period as did the proportion who had a spouse or partner, family member or friend to rely on if they had a serious problem.
  • Adult participation in sport has also fallen.

How are we doing as individuals?

Life in the UK shows an improvement 70677fe0across all 4 measures of personal wellbeing, this suggests that more people in the UK are feeling positive about their lives than in the financial year ending 2014.

Between 2011/12 and 2014/5 the rates of those reporting low wellbeing has dropped whilst the numbers reporting high wellbeing have increased.

→Personal wellbeing in the UK 2014/15 statistical bulletin


→ Subjective wellbeing data : broken down by a range of socio-demographic characteristics and by local areas

How to add subjective WB to evaluations

→Life in the UK  full update

Updated datasets:

→National wellbeing measures dataset

→Children’s wellbeing dataset

→Similar approach taken in Scotland since 2008 with their National Performance Framework

What’s wellbeing like in different jobs? new data, analysis and case study

Work matters to our wellbeing and we know that economic activity is one of the key drivers of life satisfaction. What about comparisons between those in work but in different occupations?

Job & Wellbeing Graphic March 16

The ONS personal wellbeing questions can capture different aspects of work on our lives. Not only do they cover our overall sense of satisfaction with our work but they also ask about sense of fulfillment – ‘worthwhile activities in life’ and ‘anxiety’ both of which we might expect to differ across different types of occupation.

We have taken 3 years of annual population survey data and computed personal wellbeing by standard occupation code. We have done this for 90 groups of occupations and for more detailed 369 individual occupations. By aggregating across three years of data we can get better estimates of wellbeing for these occupations – although even with such a large sample there are some jobs for which we can’t provide robust estimates (we have suppressed results with very low samples). The data is available for download and we have included sample sizes and standard deviations so that analysts can explore them in more detail. We have also included income data from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings against the same occupation codes to allow for comparisons between wellbeing and earnings. So there is lots to explore in this data.

→ Download jobs data 

What are some of the headline results?

Well perhaps no surprise that Chief Execs and Senior Officials consistently come out as having among the highest levels of well-being. However those in health, welfare, teaching, agriculture and sports report being the most fulfilled – with the highest levels of ‘worthwhile activities’ in life. Hairdressers report high levels of happiness!

And those in occupations reporting lower wellbeing and higher anxiety?

Those in sales related occupations report lower life satisfaction and worthwhile. Legal Associate Professionals report high anxiety. Interesting that Teaching and Educational Professionals report among the highest levels of ‘Worthwhile’ but also higher levels of anxiety. The Anxiety question can capture positive and negative aspects of anxiety and there are other examples where we have seen high positive wellbeing coexist with higher levels of anxiety.

Download the data and explore it for yourself. Take care not to over interpret the results though and make use of the sample sizes and standard deviations to understand the robustness of the different estimates.

→ Download and explore the jobs & wellbeing data 

Update July 16: the data is now available in a prototype app  and we’ll happily make the source code available→contact us

→Application of data pioneer case study

Skills Route is an innovative application of this data, skillsrouteits the first portal to bring together all the options for young people side by side.

→Skills Route:  Using wellbeing data to help young people make more balanced decisions.

How a wellbeing measure can improve policy-making for teens

NPC’s paper, That awkward age, analyses wellbeing data for over 8,000 children in the UK aged 10-17, collected by more than 100 charities and schools over four years between 2011-2015.

It finds that:

  • Girls are less happy than boys: 1 in 4 boys (26%), and 1 in 3 girls (35%), report their overall wellbeing as average or lower
  • Wellbeing falls as children get older: This fall is steepest between 13-14yrs and 16-17yrs. It is also steeper for girls than boys
  • Boys don’t cry—but girls report crying more as they get older: More than half girls say they ‘cry a lot’ by age 15 (53%). Only 14% boys by age 15 say the same
  • Children’s resilience is essential : Children’s resilience—‘the capacity to cope with stress and difficulties’—becomes more important with age, as the older they get the more closely it is associated with their overall wellbeing

→ Download That Awkward Age report

Here Dan Corry, NPC’s Chief Executive blogs on how this wellbeing measure can improve policy-making for teens.



National wellbeing isn’t about to reach the political status of GDP, but its importance to ministers and decision-makers has grown substantially in recent years.

It was a focus for the Coalition government (even if it faded from view as time went on), and ambitious projects have sprung up in the form of The What Works Centre for Wellbeing (of which I am a trustee) and think tank programmes at the New Economics Foundation (nef) and Nesta.

I am proud that NPC can add a new resource. In our report last month, That awkward age, we analysed data from our academically-validated, on-line tool that measures the wellbeing of young people. This easy to use tool has now been used by more than 100 schools and charities, in the process collecting anonymised information on over 8,000 children. The measure has been designed to help institutions gather clear evidence about the quality of their interventions, in the belief that only with stronger evidence can charities develop the most effective programmes to help the people with whom they work.

The measure also gives us a baseline from which we can compare the wellbeing of children at different ages between 10 and 17. Crucially it gives some insight, too, into what factors most affect wellbeing, from relationships with friends to trouble at school.

The broad findings in That awkward age aren’t necessarily that surprising, even if they are a little dispiriting.

While the majority of children report that they are happy, a sizeable chunk say they experience below average wellbeing (1 in 4 boys and 1 in 3 girls). The wellbeing of both boys and girls drops as they grow older, with a much steeper fall experienced by girls. The ‘crunch times’, at which well-being falls most sharply for both sexes, are between ages 13-14 and 16-17.

The factors which have the greatest impact on wellbeing are relations with family, a young person’s self-esteem, and their resilience (that is, their ability to bounce back from adversity).

Relations with friends are also very important, and this is where it is worth digging more deeply into the numbers. For most young people, there isn’t anything that dramatic here. The aggregate data shows that children grow less satisfied with their friends as they get older, but the fall isn’t that precipitous. Equally, while friendships become more important to their overall wellbeing as children get older, for most this is only by a bit.

But hidden away is a small group of teenage girls for whom broken friendships are disastrous. About 1 in 10 of the 15 year-olds who report falling out with friends also report low overall wellbeing. This isn’t a group who just go through a rocky patch: when they lose friends it coincides with a serious fall in how they feel about their lives.

This poses an interesting challenge to all policy makers and (NPC’s particular interest) to many charities. Resources are increasingly thin all round and especially in the voluntary sector, which will shoulder much of the burden for understanding and improving well-being. So tough decisions lie ahead. Should charities who care about wellbeing be working with all children across the board, or concentrating their efforts on the smaller groups who seem to be at greater risk of unhappiness? Should they intervene early on—with all the complexity that early intervention can entail—or focus on relieving problems now for teenagers who are already in distress?

The emergence of wellbeing as a measurable concept has many steps to go. There are still methodologies to be established, data sets to be built-up, hurdles to interpretation to be surmounted. But efforts to put in the right foundations is underway, and work we have undertaken at NPC shows how it opens up important new questions, gives new insights and poses new problems and opportunities for policy makers.


How can I measure mental wellbeing in children and young people?

PHE mental wellbeingCYP fig

Mental wellbeing has wide ranging impacts upon an individual, their quality of life and the wider society. It is of particular importance to children and young people as it is thought to influence the way in which an individual copes with key life events such as stress, trauma and physical ill-health . Not only are those with better mental wellbeing likely to deal better with stressful events and recover more quickly from illness, but they are also less likely to engage in behaviours which may put their health at risk

PHE mental wellbeingCYPThe National Mental Health, Dementia and Neurology Intelligence Network have published a new guide to Measuring Mental Wellbeing in Children and Young People.  

→This will be useful if you work in public health and want to support local Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (JSNA) and the commissioning of interventions to improve the mental wellbeing of local children and young people.

The guide covers:

  • what mental wellbeing is for children and young people
  • why it is important
  • what affects it – the key determinants
  • how to use information from a range of national and local sources to improve metal wellbeing
  • the measures that can be used to quantify mental wellbeing and its key determinants
  • information on how to use the measures
  • links to examples of evidence based practice

→ Download guide

Find other useful tools →Wellbeing Data & Resources 

Measuring the wellbeing of young people- NPC’s Dan Corry

Today we have a guest blog from Dan Corry, the Chief Executive of NPC reflecting on the measurement of young people’s wellbeing.
Our pioneer case study looks at the  NPC measure in more depth

→ be one of our wellbeing pioneers

Dan Corry, Chief Executive NPC

DanMany of the charities we work with at NPC are trying in different ways to improve the wellbeing of one group or other. But perhaps nowhere is it more important than in thinking about children. Well-being is strongly connected to concepts like resilience, self esteem and self worth, qualities that if present can lead to a fulfilling life whatever the knock backs. Their absence can make for a very difficult future.

The general concept of well-being has enjoyed political backing at the highest level. Yet despite experts agreeing that young people’s school achievement is linked to their well-being. and the efforts of charities like the Children’s Society, we are still frustratingly short of finding an effective way to measure and monitor well-being among children, and to giving it the prominence in policy-making it deserves.

Ofsted have not helped in this. Since 2011 they have shifted their focus towards ‘academic excellence’ and increasingly away from what the Secretary of State disregarded as ‘peripherals’. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has started to measure adult well-being, but is only scoping how to apply this process to children.

Here at NPC we have tried to fill this space by creating something that is easy to use for charities and others, and is academically rigorous . We launched our own Well-being Measure in 2011, after three years developing and piloting the content. Adapting years of work by researchers and academics, it uses a simple online questionnaire to assess the well-being of 11-16 year-olds under eight criteria: self-esteem; emotional well-being; resilience; satisfaction with friends, family, community and school; and life satisfaction.

This means taking an entirely subjective approach, with young people asked to record how they feel about aspects of their lives. This contrasts with ONS proposals, for example, which would focus only on objective measures like sports participation and health. The ideal would be to combine the two—but it should be noted that there has been increasing recognition of the value of subjective approaches in recent years.

Since 2011, our Well-being Measure has been used by more than 50 charities, schools and local authorities, typically to measure the well-being of children both before and after an activity or intervention. This gives some sense of the impact that activity has had on their lives—and in the last three years, the Measure has helped us learn more about the well-being of around 7,000 young people.

Analysing this data, some of the results paint a reassuring picture of children’s lives. Family and friends play an important role. Very large percentages respond positively to statements about them: for example, 90% agreed ‘my friends are great’, 93% ‘I have a lot of fun with my friends, 86% ‘my parents treat me fairly’.

But at the other end of the scale, the greatest dissatisfaction is linked to local community and anxiety. Only 48% agreed that ‘there are lots of fun things to do where I lived’, while 35% children said they ‘worried a lot’ and 24% agreed ‘I am nervous or tense’. Analysis of the data also suggests some alarming fall-offs in well-being for girls in their teenage years, perhaps due to the pressures posed through new technology and abuse or coercion through social media.

We are continuing to develop the Well-being Measure and apply it in new settings. Since last year we have been working with the London Mayor’s Fund to measure change among young people involved in their Be the Best you can Be! programme. It is also being adapted for use with the Tri-Borough London authorities—Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Kensington and Chelsea—so that it can work with children with special needs. (edited to add this is now available).

Measuring well-being is a process which probably never finishes. It’ll always need adaptations and tweaks along the way, so that we can catch as much high-quality, useable data as possible. But at a time when the connections between happiness, achievement and prosperity are under discussion, NPC is proud to have started taking those steps.

What works?

 The rise of ‘experimental’ government

ThExperimentalism in CSQis week David Halpern, National Adviser on What Works  makes the case for innovation to be embedded in our work and not confined to new initiatives or programmes in Civil Service Quarterly.

He calls for us all to evaluate and adapt our practice on a continual basis and shares how a more robust level of evaluation can become a transformational tool.

Our Pioneers are doing just that and we want you to be bold and deliberate in your practice .

This week’s pioneer case study showcases Think Good, Feel Good – A Whole School Approach to Emotional Health & Wellbeing across Shropshire schools.

→ be one of our wellbeing pioneers

Our evidence programme call with our commissioning partners ESRC has now closed and our panel is at work considering the applications. Thank you for your interest, it is really inspiring to hear about so much great research in the UK.  If you want to share your work or find out about what others are doing please do use our growing online forum.

Also a reminder that Lord O’Donnell is currently recruiting the Chair and Board of the Centre closing date for applications for Chair is 2nd February and Trustees 16th February.



Economic wellbeing

As the World Economic Forum is holding its Annual Meeeting in Switzerland this week we look at economics and wellbeing.

There is a growing movement which argues that you should measure a country’s progress by more than GDP. The Office for National Statistics, as part of Measuring What Matters recently published economic wellbeing data  alongside the standard economic data for Q3 2014.wellbeing900_tcm77-390268

This is the first time that these figures have been released together to present a more rounded way of assessing economic wellbeing

Our Pioneer Case study examines the work of a Career Connect, a  charity supporting  adults’ and young peoples’ resilience as they move into education or the workplace.

→ be one of our wellbeing pioneers

Happy New Year! Improving the wellbeing of children and young people

Happy New Year from the What Works centre for Wellbeing! 2015 will be a very exciting year and busy year!

To start off we’d like to share the recent report from the Children’s Society and NEF on improving the wellbeing of children and young people as one of our Pioneer case studies.


Children & Young people’s wellbeing in the UK

To coincide with a Week of Action organised by the Department of Health and Public Health England aimed at supporting families to provide children with the best start in life, here at the What Works Centre for Wellbeing we’ve pulled together publications showing the latest picture of the wellbeing of children and young people in the UK and some pointers to resources for taking positive action.Shift Child 3

Our Wellbeing Pioneers this week are the National Citizen Service programme, providing a great example of how tangible results in improving young people’s wellbeing can be achieved and Shift, an organisation designing an innovative biofeedback video game to help young people improve their own wellbeing.

Our pioneers are short case studies of real projects, real places, real people and their evaluations.

→ be one of our pioneers

What does the latest picture show about children and young people’s wellbeing?

Exploring the Well-being of Children in the UK, 2014 presents the latest statistical picture of the wellbeing of children in the UK from the ONS Measuring National Wellbeing Programme (published October 2014).

The Good Childhood Report, 2014 is the most recent report from The Children’s Society looking at the wellbeing of children in the UK and highlighting areas for improvement.

5,660 Young People Can’t be Wrong. How Will YOU Help Us? summarises the results of Young Mind’s consultation with 5,600 young people (October 2013- May 2014) asking what the big issues were that made them feel under pressure, how these issues affect them and what needs to be done about them.

Where can I find out more about how to support children and young people’s wellbeing?

logo-eifThe Guidebook from the Early Intervention Foundation is an online, interactive resource for those commissioning and providing services for children and families. It gives details of which programmes have been shown to work most effectively for improving outcomes for children as well as information about what works best in putting them into practice.

The Children’s Society have produced a guide for parents on how to support their children’s wellbeing.

‘Talking Wellbeing’ is a toolkit developed by young people working with the National Children’s Bureau, Our Life and NHS Sefton, with help from Sefton Council and Sefton CVS. It shows how to run a five-step focus group for 14-19 year olds, exploring what wellbeing means to young people, what factors influence it and what they can do to improve their own wellbeing and that of their community.

We hope you like this short collation of evidence and resources. Its our first go at this type of post so your feedback is very welcome.  Please do comment on this post below and tweet recommending other great resources for children and young people’s wellbeing that you’ve found useful and would like to share with others

The development team