Skip to content

Theory of Change and Evaluability Assessment for the Whole School Approach to Mental Health

Lead Investigator

Rachel Brown

Co Investigators

Graham Moore, Jordan van Godwin, Amy Edwards, Molly Burdon, Wolfson Centre


In Wales, the promotion of positive health and wellbeing in children and young people is a key goal of the Welsh Government, including a commitment to improving mental health and emotional wellbeing. A commitment has been made to taking a whole school approach (WSA) through the introduction of the statutory guidance – the ‘Framework On Embedding A Whole School Approach To Emotional And Mental Well-Being’ (Welsh Gov. 2021), which requires all schools to embed a whole school approach in daily practice. Understanding and refining the whole school approach to mental health and emotional wellbeing is therefore key to delivering current policy goals, including identifying actions associated with effective implementation and developing evaluation to identify the relationships between these actions and outcomes. This research was commissioned by Welsh Government to develop a programme theory and conduct an evaluability assessment, for a whole school approach to mental health and emotional wellbeing.

Aims and Objectives

The aims of this research were:

•     To draw on national and international evidence to develop an emerging programme theory, presented diagrammatically as a logic model, for the WSA.

•     The study aimed to identify how activities and inputs delivered as a WSA may give rise to desired changes. These changes include amendments to processes within the school system as well as improvements in mental health and emotional wellbeing for pupils, staff and others.

•     To assess evaluability of the WSA, meaning considering the feasibility and practicality of evaluation, as well as potential approaches to process and outcomes evaluation. This considers evaluation approaches that are realistic, prudent and efficient, capturing and reflecting existing conditions in schools as well as advising on potential changes necessary for evaluation.

Study Design

This was a multi-phased, qualitative research design, including a combination of desk-based review and analysis, as well as interviews with stakeholders and an embedded case study. Steps were:

  • Document analysis of key UK policy and practice documents in the area of mental health and emotional wellbeing in children and young people.
  • Rapid overview of reviews of whole school approaches to mental health and emotional wellbeing.
  • Focus groups of adult stakeholders with insights into the research topic, the intervention, the setting and the wider policy context.
  • Focus group of young people and two group sessions with the ALPHA young people’s consultation group in order to discuss challenges to mental health and wellbeing and potential school-based activities as part of a WSA.
  • Case study analysis of the experience of delivering a Whole School Approach project by Newport Mind
  • Appraisal of measures and data sources from steps 1-3 and further discussion with a sub-sample of stakeholders during individual follow-up interviews.

Further information and publications

Report: Whole School Approach to Mental and Emotional Wellbeing: evaluability assessment | (Gov Wales)

Article: A qualitative exploration of stakeholder perspectives on the implementation of a whole school approach to mental health and emotional wellbeing in Wales Health Education Research, 2023

Start date


End date



Welsh Government