Monitoring whole-school mental health practices

A new survey has been developed to help schools evaluate the effectiveness of school-wide programs they've implemented.

The Survey of School Promotion of Emotional and Social Health (SSPESH) is designed to specifically assist schools in understanding the effectiveness of practices they've employed to promote the emotional and social wellbeing of students.

Writing in Research Developments [rd], Dr Katherine Dix explains how the 13-item survey can be useful when investigating to what extent a school prioritises a child's social-emotional development, which is known to correlate with a student's mental health.

‘The evidence suggests [initiatives] are most effective when taken up school-wide. But implementing any whole-school initiative is a complex undertaking,' Dix reports, adding that some researchers have attributed a lack of appropriate assessment tools as a barrier to measuring the quality of whole-school initiatives.

‘[The survey] gives an overall social-emotional health promotion score used to identify where a school sits on a continuum with cut-points for high, moderate and low implementation. It is an approach that has been used successfully in whole school evaluations before.'

Dix, a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), says the SSPESH was validated using results from an online survey of almost 600 primary school principals as a part of the New South Wales Child Development Study. ‘[This combines] the health, education, welfare and justice records of around 90 000 children and their parents in order to identify the childhood factors that promote positive mental health and wellbeing later in life.'

In addition to allowing schools to better understand their level of program implementation, SSPESH results can point schools to recognising target areas for improvement in relation to student wellbeing. ‘By scoring subscales, indications are given of a school's capacity within four health-promoting domains: creating a positive school community, teaching social and emotional skills, engaging the parent community, [and] supporting students experiencing mental health difficulties,' Dix explains.

These indicators reflect the World Health Organization's Health Promoting Schools Framework and the Australia-wide Frameworks of KidsMatter and MindMatters.

The SSPESH takes systemic and geographical factors into consideration which differ between schools and have the potential to affect implementation levels. The survey also allows for users to compare their score against other schools.

Read the full article: A new tool to monitor whole-school mental health promotion published in ACER's Research Developments to find out more about the survey.


Dix, K.L., Green, M.J., Tzoumakis, S., Dean, K., Harris, F., Carr, V.J., Laurens, K.R. (2018). The Survey of School Promotion of Emotional and Social Health (SSPESH): A Brief Measure of the Implementation of Whole-School Mental Health Promotion. School Mental Health. Springer US

As a school leader, think about a new program you’ve implemented in your own setting: How are you monitoring its effectiveness and impact?