The impact Pyramid Club has on socio-emotional health and school performance for pupils in early secondary education: a mixed methods evaluation study

Jayman, Michelle ORCID: (2018) The impact Pyramid Club has on socio-emotional health and school performance for pupils in early secondary education: a mixed methods evaluation study. In: BERA Annual Conference 2018, 11-13 September, Northumbria University, Newcastle. (Unpublished)

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The impact of Pyramid Club on the socio-emotional health and school performance of pupils in early secondary education: a mixed methods evaluation study
The school setting has been heralded as the ideal environment in which to enhance both socio-emotional well-being (SEWB) and pupils’ educational success. Robust evidence linking mental well-being with academic outcomes (e.g. Gutman & Vorhaus 2012) suggests that socio-emotional interventions can prevent the development, or worsening, of mental health problems whilst simultaneously benefitting pupils’ school progress. Psychological distress among children and young people (CYP) is increasing and many are unable to access appropriate and timely support. This situation has focused attention on the crucial role of schools and led to greater demand for evidence-based models of good practice to improve schools’ existing support and provision (Department of Health, 2015). Pyramid Club is a brief, school-based, socio-emotional intervention targeted at CYP (aged 7-14 years) who typically internalise their difficulties. Previous evaluations of Pyramid have predominantly consisted of effectiveness studies with primary school children (e.g. Ohl et al., 2012); impact on secondary-aged children and an understanding of process were identified as lacking.
The aim of the current research was to robustly evaluate the Pyramid intervention through its impact on the socio-emotional well-being (SEWB) and school performance of pupils in early secondary education (11- to 14-years), and to investigate the procedures and mechanisms underlying behaviour change.
Methods: A mixed methods design was implemented. A quasi-experiment comprised the quantitative phase. Following a screening procedure pupils from eight, co-educational secondary schools in England and Wales (n=126) (mean age 12.5 years) were allocated to the Pyramid (intervention) group or non-intervention comparison group. Measures of SEWB and pupils’ school performance were administered at three time points (baseline, post-test and 12-month follow-up). SEWB was assessed using objective and subjective measures including: the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (Goodman, 1997; Goodman et al., 1998) at pre- and post-intervention. Subject ability self-concepts and current academic levels (English and Mathematics) were used as subjective and objective measures of school performance respectively at pre- and post-intervention. At 12-month follow-up the objective measures were used to re-examine the dual domains of interest.
A focus group method was selected to investigate stakeholders’ perceptions and experiences of Pyramid Club. This approach addresses the rights of CYP to inform practices and policies which concern them, an increasingly important consideration in service evaluation. Focus groups were held with Pyramid Club attendees and separately with Club leaders at each of the participating schools. Qualitative data were thematically analysed.
Results: Young people who attended Pyramid club showed improvements in SEWB with an equivalent effect across gender, ethnic and SES groups, suggesting the intervention can be successfully delivered across socio-demographic groups; improvement was sustained at 12-month follow-up. Statistically significant differences in psychosocial difficulties generated large effects post-test, and at 12-month follow-up. Furthermore, distinct trends in pupils’ ability self-concept in English and Mathematics from pre- to post-club indicate that Pyramid may have had a ‘buffer effect’, with Pyramid attendees showing some resilience to the typical ‘dip phenomenon’ associated with this developmental period. Qualitative findings supported intervention effectiveness (e.g. improvements in social skills and confidence) and identified drivers (procedures and mechanisms) underlying behaviour change. Moreover, impact on educationally relevant attitudes and behaviours or ‘academic enablers’ was identified, for example, greater participation and engagement in learning.
Conclusion: Current findings have important implications for theory and practice and extend the Pyramid literature to include evidence of effectiveness with an adolescent population. A refined, five-part Pyramid model has been proposed and can be incorporated as part of a multi-component health promoting schools strategy: the five-part model proposes how implementation processes can be integrated with existing school systems and recommended strategies (e.g. National Children’s Bureau, 2015) to improve socio-emotional and educational outcomes for children and young people and, crucially, create ‘real world’ impact on pupils’ lives.

Department of Health (2015) Future in mind (London, Crown Publications).
Goodman, R. (1997) The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire: a research note, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 38, 581-586.
Goodman, R., Meltzer, H. & Bailey, V. (1998) The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire: A pilot study on the validity of the self-report version, European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 7, 125-130.
Gutman, L., M., & Vorhaus, J. (2012) The impact of pupil behaviour and wellbeing on educational outcomes (London, Department for Education).
National Children’s Bureau (2015) A whole school framework for emotional well-being and mental health. Available online at: (accessed 12 December 2017).
Ohl, M., Fox, P. & Mitchell, K. (2012) Strengthening socio-emotional competencies in a school setting. Data from the Pyramid project, British Journal of Educational Psychology, 83, 452-466.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: Education
Depositing User: Michelle Jayman
Date Deposited: 20 Mar 2018 18:31
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2021 07:09

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