Supporting the development of children’s socio-emotional well-being
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of West London
Unit of AssessmentEducation
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Education: Specialist Studies In Education
Studies In Human Society: Sociology
Summary of the impact
This case study represents the work of the Pyramid research team within
the INSTIL Education Research Group (INSTIL ERG). Research at the
University of West London is characterised by an ambition to promote
`useful knowledge' and this case study, with its focus on providing
evidence to inform and direct practice, fits within this approach. The
case study describes the first rigorous evaluation of the impact of
Pyramid after-school clubs that aim to improve the socio-emotional
wellbeing of vulnerable children. The work of the Pyramid research team
provides an empirical evidence base to support the work of a range of
stakeholders including: practitioners; policy makers and researchers in
the field of children's socio-emotional well-being, and the children and
their families. Drawing on the evidence base, these impacts include the
securing of funding for the continuation of Pyramid clubs in schools and
informing future development and extension of the Pyramid club
intervention for delivery to other age groups.
The underpinning research outlined in this case study represents the
first peer-reviewed evaluation of the impact of Pyramid clubs: a
short-term school-based intervention to improve the socio-emotional
wellbeing of vulnerable children. The research, which is on going,
involves comparison of children who did or did not attend Pyramid clubs on
measures of their socio-emotional health. These measures were made before
and after the children had attended the Pyramid Clubs and were compared
with similar measures from matched children within a `control' who did not
attend the Clubs. In addition, the research programme has examined the use
of Circle Time as a technique for obtaining children's views on service
Evaluations have focused on examining the evidence of Pyramid's impact on
children's socio-emotional wellbeing. The research team's development of
an evidence base demonstrating the efficacy of the Pyramid primary school
intervention has led to the following key outcomes:
- Dissemination of the positive impact of Pyramid to practitioners and
policy makers through presentations at peer-reviewed conferences and
- generation of research interest in Pyramid at other higher education
institutions e.g. University of Ulster and University of Manchester;
- use of the evidence base for future development and extension of the
Pyramid intervention for delivery to other age groups i.e. children in
- use of the evidence base to secure funding for the continuation of
Pyramid clubs in schools;
- supporting public awareness of the importance of early intervention in
children's socio-emotional well-being;
- supporting employability skills in undergraduate students and other
Key individuals involved in the programme of research:
- Dr Madeleine Ohl, Acting Dean of Students (2004-present)
- Dr Pauline Fox, Associate Professor (1993-present)
- Professor Kathryn Mitchell, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (2003-present)
In 2013 and following the research team's evaluations, Pyramid and the
University of West London strengthened their long-standing collaboration
with a successful joint application for a funding grant to expand the
reach of the intervention to primary and secondary schools in Brent,
Harrow and Westminster.
Key Pyramid staff i.e. Pyramid Project Lead, Bronach Hughes, is now at
the University of West London.
This research has made a significant contribution to the area of what
practitioners and policy-makers recognise as effective primary
school-based socio-emotional wellbeing initiatives. This is an area that
was identified as being lacking, in recent guidance from the National
Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE, 2008).
References to the research
1. Ohl, M., Mitchell, K., Fox, P. & Cassidy, T. (2006). Investigating
the role of multi-agency screening in primary school-based interventions.
Presentation at the Faculty of Children and Young People Annual
Conference, University of Hertfordshire, September 2006.
2. Ohl, M., Mitchell, K., Cassidy, T. & Fox, P. (2008). The
Pyramid Club primary school based intervention: Evaluating the impact on
children's social-emotional health. Child and Adolescent Mental
Health. 13 (3). 115-121. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-3588.2007.00476.x
3. 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.
4. Ohl, M., Fox, P., & Mitchell, K. (2013).The Pyramid Club
elementary school-based intervention: Testing the Circle Time technique
to elicit children's service satisfaction. Journal of Educational
and Developmental Psychology. 3(2). DOI: 10.5539/jedp.v3n2p204
Details of the impact
The research makes a contribution to policy and practice for all Pyramid
club stakeholders. These stakeholders include: Pyramid at the University
of West London (part of the ContinYou community learning
organisation until June 2013); local authority commissioners; funding
bodies; schools; Pyramid club leaders; and the children themselves, and
their families (service users).
Pyramid uses the team's research to support its programme management and
communication with stakeholders e.g. providing decision-making information
for local authority service commissioners, funding bodies, and other
professionals e.g. social workers, teachers, educational psychologists. A
lay summary of the Pyramid evaluation research is included in a guide for
donors and charities in the area of children's and young people's mental
health (New Philanthropy Capital [NPC], 2008). NPC, `a consultancy and
think tank dedicated to helping funders and charities achieve a greater
impact' (NPC, 2008), uses the research to support anecdotal and
qualitative evidence of the beneficial effects of Pyramid Club attendance.
Similarly, the work has been cited (Cassidy, 2009) in the peer-reviewed
journal — Social Psychology of Education.
The research findings were also important to schools in demonstrating
that they were adopting evidence-based practice to contribute to
Government initiatives such as Every Child Matters (DfES, 2003), Targeted
Mental Health in Schools (TAMHS), and the Healthy School Standard (Health
Development Agency, 2004). Pyramid stakeholders also include undergraduate
volunteers who gain transferable employability skills, and schools support
staff such as Teaching Assistants who enhance their practice by training
to deliver an evidence-based intervention within the primary school
During the REF assessment period, the number of children who attended a
Pyramid club peaked in the 2009/10 academic year at approximately 6,300
children. Through the commissioning process, the availability of a strong
evidence-base arising from our research will assist growth of the number
of Pyramid clubs operating and the number of children who can attend.
The research has also stimulated research interest in Pyramid, in other
Higher Education Institutions for example the work of McKenna, Cassidy and
Giles (2013) at the University of Ulster.
The research evaluations of Pyramid have supported successful funding
bids to the following organisations which, in turn, have benefited and
continue to benefit Pyramid's service users:
- The John Lyons's Charity (£72,000), Development of the Transition
Project, London Borough of Ealing (2009).
- The John Lyons's Charity (£90,000), Rollout of the Pyramid project in
the London Boroughs of Ealing, Brent, Westminster and Harrow (2013).
- John Laing (£24,000), Development of the Pyramid model and new
materials to extend the reach to young people aged 11-14 in secondary
- Santander (£9,000), funding for a pilot multi-disciplinary project in
Bradford, bringing together schools, Children's Centre and youth workers
Sources to corroborate the impact
Use of the research evidence base to inform practitioners in education
- Children and Young People Now. (2012). Mental Health Case Study:
Scheme lifts quiet children's confidence. June 26-9 July 2012. Pp
- New Philanthropy Capital. (2008). Heads Up. Mental health of
children and young people: a guide for donors and charities.
London: New Philanthropy Capital/Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
- Pyramid Co-ordinator, Cornwall Council, Services for Children, Schools
- Chartered Educational Psychologist, Buckinghamshire County Council
Educational Psychology Service.
- Development Director, Communities and Schools Together (CaST),
- CHUMS Child Bereavement, Trauma and Emotional Wellbeing Service.
Generation of research interest in Pyramid at other higher education
- Assistant Director, Barnardo's Northern Ireland.
Use of the evidence base to support funding for the continuation of
Pyramid clubs in schools:
- The John Lyon's Charity: 45 Cadogan Gardens, London.
Supporting public awareness of the importance of early intervention in
children's socio-emotional well-being
Supporting employability skills in undergraduate students and other