Improving the socio-emotional health of young people in early secondary education: preliminary findings from a study of the Pyramid intervention project

Jayman, Michelle ORCID:, Ohl, Maddie ORCID:, Hughes, Bronach and Fox, Pauline ORCID: (2015) Improving the socio-emotional health of young people in early secondary education: preliminary findings from a study of the Pyramid intervention project. In: 4th European Conference on Child and Adolescent Mental health in Educational Settings, 05-06 Feb 2015, Lausanne, Switzerland. (Unpublished)

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Background: The incidence of mental health disorders in children and young people is an escalating concern. In the UK almost 10% of five to sixteen year-olds have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem. Beyond this figure approximately 15% have less severe issues but are at risk of developing problems in the future. Research suggests poor socio-emotional health in adolescence is related to many negative outcomes including loneliness, lack of school adjustment, poor academic performance and more serious mental health issues later on in life. Historically, focus has been on assessment and management of difficulties with much less attention on mental health promotion. However, schools can support young people develop socio-emotional competencies and nurture resilience. The Pyramid project is a targeted, school-based intervention which aims to improve the socio-emotional well-being of vulnerable adolescents. Previous evaluations with primary-aged children have demonstrated the positive impact of Pyramid programmes on vulnerable children’s social and emotional health (Ohl et al 2008, Ohl et al 2012; McKenna et al, 2013).
Aim(s): To examine the impact of Pyramid programmes on the socio-emotional health of pupils in early secondary education and to explore the underlying mechanisms which bring about change. The evaluation aims to refine current theory and reliably inform applied practice.
Methods: The impact of the Pyramid programme on twenty-eight early-adolescent students from four secondary schools across the UK was examined through a mixed-methods design. Quantitative measures included cross-informant Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires (Goodman, 1997; Goodman, 1998). Qualitative data was collected from focus groups with Pyramid group participants and programme leaders.
Results: Results from teacher assessment Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires demonstrated improvements in the intervention group’s socio-emotional competencies compared to a comparison group. A deductive, thematic analysis of the qualitative data collected supported the quantitative findings and identified potential causal mechanisms within the group intervention that facilitated change. Qualitative findings also suggested potential secondary effects of attending Pyramid club which included increased engagement and school connectedness.
Conclusion: These preliminary findings will contribute to future research on a larger cohort and support extending the study to examine potential secondary effects of the Pyramid programme, including impact on school performance. Improving child mental health is an important public health concern and schools can promote good mental health and better equip their pupils to succeed by working with others to provide evidence-based interventions for pupils with mental health issues. Extending the current research can help establish a developmentally appropriate theoretical model to support vulnerable young people in early secondary education. The potential of findings to underpin evidence-based policy and practice in the early adolescent population is discussed.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: Education
Medicine and health > Mental health
Depositing User: Michelle Jayman
Date Deposited: 31 May 2016 18:01
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2021 07:07


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