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Big Lottery Bid Success: HeadStart Wolverhampton awarded £8.8 million over five years to develop services and programmes for young people

(published: Wednesday 20th July, 2016)

In February of this year, HeadStart Wolverhampton submitted a bid to The Big Lottery Fund for additional funding to support expanded HeadStart programmes working across the city.

We are absolutely delighted to be able to announce today that The Big Lottery have chosen to fund our proposals in full and that £8.8 million will be coming into Wolverhampton over the next 5 years to support work with young people, and with the professionals who impact upon their lives. Six areas around the UK have been funded by The Big Lottery Fund to provide HeadStart programmes, and we are so, so, pleased that Wolverhampton is one of those areas.

Councillor Val Gibson with a group of Wolverhampton HeadStarters

Councillor Val Gibson with a group of Wolverhampton HeadStarters

This news is a key milestone for the HeadStart programme in Wolverhampton. It marks both the end of the pilot phase of HeadStart, and the beginning of a new, expanded HeadStart programme that will reach out to young people across the city. The HeadStart team, school leaders and professionals, and a wide range of wonderful community organisations, have worked incredibly hard over the last two years to pilot and evaluate new programmes and projects in the community and schools. Now, however, the hard work really begins.

Before we look ahead to our plans and proposals for the next five years let's rewind the clock, and look back upon the journey of HeadStart from 2014 to 2016.

Viv Griffin and Kevin Pace react to news of Wolverhampton's HeadStart bid success

I’m thrilled that HeadStart Wolverhampton has been awarded additional funding ... thrilled, but not surprised. I saw the phenomenal amount of work that went into the bid.
— Paul McGee,
Getting Ahead students in their self-designed positive message T-shirts

Getting Ahead students in their self-designed positive message T-shirts

Why HeadStart?

An animation created by a young person working with The Key Team, describing her mental health journey.

The issue of mental health, whether in adults, or in children and young people, has emerged from the shadows of stigma and unspoken discrimination to become a national priority for communities, health services, schools and our political leaders. Indeed, just last week, Theresa May, specifically mentioned the issue in her first public statement as our new Prime Minister.

Mental illness is the largest disease burden and the largest cause of disability within the UK. It frequently starts before adulthood and 75% of adults with a lifetime mental illness first developed symptoms before 18. Young people in the target 10 to 16 age group for HeadStart are journeying through key transitions in their lives, with long-term implications for their mental health and resilience. Public Health England report that in a typical class of thirty 15 year-olds:

  • 3 have a clinically diagnosable mental illness
  • 10 have witnessed their parents separate
  • 1 has experienced the death of a parent
  • 7 have been bullied
  • 6 are self-harming

Within this context, the answer to 'Why HeadStart?' is clear. We need HeadStart and similar programmes to target support at young people, directing professional expertise and new thinking at the most vulnerable, investing funds now to protect young people from lifelong mental health problems that destroy lives, and which drain resources from health services and the criminal justice system.

HeadStart is not a 'mental health' programme. It supports young people in developing their resilience, in raising their awareness of their own mental health and that of their peers, and in preventing the development of lifelong mental health issues.

“Fighting against the burning injustice .... that if you suffer from mental health problems, there’s not enough help to hand”
— (Theresa May, 13th July 2016)

We listen, we consult, and we give responsibility to young people. They are in the driving seat of HeadStart.

Young people have been at the centre of everything we have done in HeadStart. This doesn't just mean that we are always thinking of them. It means that we listen to themconsult them, and give them responsibility for decision-making about what we do, and how money is spent. We are accountable to them for our mistakes, and celebrate success alongside them.

Wolverhampton HeadStarters

Our HeadStarters are a large group of young people from primary, secondary, and special schools, and from alternative educational providers in the city.

They work with the HeadStart team, community groups, and teachers to make sure that the ideas and feedback of young people about HeadStart are listened to, and responded to.

They have participated as Dragons in decision-making about how HeadStart funding is spent in the community and support safeguarding in the city as part of the B-Safe Team.

Our HeadStarters aren’t just ‘engaged’ they are in the driving seat! Challenging the providers they funded as our ‘Dragons’
— Kevin Pace

Dragon's Den Events

HeadStarters were trained as 'Dragons' in evaluating bids from community and voluntary organisations for HeadStart funding. They grilled the adults who presented to them, asking tough questions about the objectives and implementation of proposed projects.

Once commissioned projects were complete, they faced the dragons again:

The B-Safe Team

The student B-Safe Team meet regularly at HeadStart HQ to make decisions, create campaigns, and feedback to the City Of Wolverhampton Council Safeguarding Board, concerning issues of e-safety, child protection and anti-bullying.

They have been heavily involved, for example, in creating an Anti-bullying Charter for the city, and in creating campaigns for Safer Internet Day, and Suicide Prevention Week.

The journey so far ...

HeadStart Wolverhampton began life early in 2014 as a partnership of public sector organisations, voluntary and community groups, and young people, following an invitation from Big Lottery to be one of twelve original HeadStart partnerships.

Following an initial period in which we consulted widely with local partners, community groups and young people, in June 2014, we moved into a new phase in which the focus was on exploring a range of approaches to improving mental health and resilience in young people.

We developed programmes to support young people and thier parents and carers with issues around home life and relationships, and to developing positive attitudes in schools or other education setings.

We worked with professionals in schools, including school leaders, to develop awareness of mental health and resilience and embedding strategies to support the young people in their care.

We commissioned community services to provide 'place to go' activities, creative arts programmes and counselling and mentoring services.

Finally, we focussed carefully on young people's interactions with digital technologies, supporting them in understanding the risks of inappropriate choices online, while reinforcing the positive benefits of using technology to create, to communicate, to learn and to express themselves.

We have learned a lot from these pilot programmes, and still have much to learn.

Community Projects

Back in December 2014, our HeadStart Student Partnership board - our 'Dragons' - reviewed bids from 38 Wolverhampton voluntary and community projects for financial support as part of Phase 2 of Big Lottery funding. Working alongside education and mental health professionals, the young people carefully evaluated each bid before making decisions on which projects to fund, and how much money to allocate to each.

A wide range of community projects were commissioned, targeting diverse groups of young people and their parents or carers. We had projects which worked to support parents to play creatively with their children, projects supporting vulnerable girls, projects offering creative arts and drama workshops, community radio and digital media, or working with LGBT youngsters and youngsters questioning their sexuality.

40% of HeadStart funding in Wolverhampton so far has been allocated to community and voluntary work

Parents have contacted us through social networks to say “You’ve had such a positive effect on my child”

Young people discuss the impact of the 'A Place To Be Me' community project run by The Gazebo Theatre

Over the last year, we have published a range of articles exploring these community projects:

School programmes

HeadStart Wolverhampton has worked closely with primary, secondary, and special schools all across the city. We have explored a wide range of approaches to supporting resilience and awareness of mental health issues, and in particular, have worked extensively using two programmes with schools:

  • The Pennsylvania State Resilience Programme, an intensive structured series of lessons, delivered by trained educational professionals. This was primarily used in Wolverhampton's secondary schools.
  • SUMO (Stop, Understand, Move On), which develops strategies based on a set of simple, memorable, catchphrases, including 'Hippo Time is OK', and 'Remember the Beachball'.

Wolverhampton University evaluated these two approaches in great detail. See the 'Evaluation' part of this page for more information.

After exploring and testing these approaches, the HeadStart education team formulated the most effective ideas into two programmes: HeadsUp and HEROs:

paul mcgee image.jpg


HeadsUp supports pupils in building a better understanding of the importance of their emotional health and well-being. Making powerful use of the principles of SUMO (Stop, Understand, Move On), the programme helps pupils to become more self-aware, and to carefully consider the feelings of their peers. Pupils explore positive attitudes, the importance of recognising different perspectives, and mindfulness. They then relate these ideas to themes including bullying and building their own resilience.

“I just wanted to say a very big thank you for the past couple of days. Talking to both children and staff all feedback has been very positive .. I understand the time and effort it takes to plan exciting learning activites but also know how effective they can be in raising the self-esteem of the children in our care. All your hard work is very much appreciated and I look forward to further work with you in the future .. to have such success in your ‘debut’ training is a great start.
— Feedback email from school teacher

The HeadsUp training is a highly interactive experience that encourages pupils to have fun with their peers while learning.

The 6 SUMO Principles:

  1. Change your T-shirt
  2. Develop Fruity Thinking
  3. Hippo Time is OK
  4. Remember the Beachball
  5. Learn Latin
  6. Ditch Doris Day
I learned there is no ‘I’ in team .. I learned more about feelings with the feeling ball .. l learned more about me .. I learned about empathy .. I learned how to help others
— A Year 6 student

Paul McGee Discusses SUMO in Schools (Audio interview)

Paul McGee working with Wolverhampton education professionals


The HEROs programme aims to equip pupils with the skills, and the attitudes, to support peers who may be struggling to deal with the challenges of everyday life. It aims to reduce incidents of conflict, and encourages pupils to create and maintain a friendly, caring, and safe school environment. The training incorporates aspects from 'Stop, Understand, Move On', putting the SUMO formula into practice:

E + R = O: Event plus our Response determines Outcome.

Pupils develop their skills in communication, problem solving, empathy and conflict management. They work in teams to develop their peer-mentoring skills, learning through role play to consider different perspectives and the feelings of their classmates.

Digital at the heart of HeadStart

Interactions with digital technologies - the internet, social networking, gaming, mobile devices, and PCs - are incredibly important to young people today. They use digital technologies to learn, to communicate, to play, and to create. The use of digital technologies has the power to make their lives better, but is also accompanied by risks: the risk of accessing inappropriate content, and the risk of communicating with people they shouldn't, among others.

HeadStart Wolverhampton has focussed from the start on encouraging young people to make positive use of technologies, while minimising these risks.

The Open Space Event - Wolverhampton Civic Centre, October 2014

The launching point for our digital work was an 'Open Space' event at The Civic in Wolverhampton. This event brought together over 150 young people from around the city to plan and share ideas for digital work in the city, and made use of an innovative meeting technique ('Open Space') that encourages the free exchange of ideas and collaboration. Research into Open Space has been pioneered by Karl Royle of Wolverhampton University, although Karl admitted after the event that he had never tried it with children or young people before!

The Open Space event was a great success and we left with a wide range of wonderful ideas for creative digital projects.

Karl Royle from Wolverhampton University discusses the Open Space Event (audio interview)

Phase 2 Digital Projects

Following the success of the Open Space Event, HeadStart commissioned a range of digital pilot projects working in schools:

  • Stone’s Throw Media, worked with schools to write, rehearse and produce films relating to themes that had arisen in the Open Space Event. Themes included bullying, eSafety, relationships, moving to secondary schools, and family issues. The project focused the learners on the motivations and feelings of characters involved in challenging scenarios and on how a film could help others dealing with similar situations.
  • Russell Prue of Anderton Tiger worked on live broadcasting workshops with young people, giving them the experience of being live without the 'safety net' of pre-recording their shows. This work ultimately developed into the creation of the 4YP radio shows (more details below).
  • The Switch Project worked with school students on music and song production. Groups of children wrote lyrics and melodies to compose and record songs which explored issues of resilience and well-being.
  • Wolverhampton Learning Technologies Team worked with school classes in Year 5 and Year 6 on Junior Apprentice app creation sessions. Young people worked in teams to create concepts for mobile apps to support Year 6 in students in transitioning into Year 7 at secondary school. They then presented their ideas to a team of judges. Winning teams from all of the participating schools came together for a grand final, in which a class from Parkfield Primary school won the right to have their app ideas prototyped for real by Void Applications.

Gallery: Junior Apprentice Project

Getting Ahead

The Getting Ahead project explores the interaction between digital technologies and resilience using a series of workshops. 

Making extensive use of the themes of SUMO, Getting Head sessions challenged a group of young people to conquer fears, build confidence, and make use of digital media to communicate and share positive messages to their peers. Young people shared their experiences and ideas with each other using the secure Yammer social network.

Staff from Wolverhampton Learning Technologies Team led sessions with the following themes:

Day 1 (Introduction – Change Your T-Shirt)

  • Q&A with Steve Bull discussing resilience and overcoming setbacks
  • Designing SUMO T-Shirts with positive messages.

Day 2 Woodlands Camp

  • Adventurous and problem solving activities
  • Overcoming fears and supporting others to overcome theirs
  • Assault course, high ropes, climbing wall and abseiling!

Day 3 Democracy (Civic Centre)

  • Introduction by the Mayor of Wolverhampton on decision-making process within the city. The Mayor set a challenge for the young people to be in charge of the Council for the day and decide on City priorities
  • Interview local residents in Wolverhampton City Council
  • Analyse the results and produce a presentation
  • Public speaking workshops
  • Present findings and suggestions in the Council Chamber to the rest of the group and invited guests

Day 4 Public Service Films (SafeSide)

  • Challenged to create a modern public service film dealing with key issues: homelessness, personal safety, e-safety, consideration for others. Films shared at the end of the day

Day 5 Shelter Building & Problem Solving (Kingswood)

  • Mental and physical activities at Kingswood. Collaborate in groups to complete the challenges. Points awarded for each activitiy which converted into 'currency'.
  • Currency used to buy materials for shelter building
  • Shelters built and the quality judged by how wet the young people got when sat underneath them and subjected to a “storm”

Day 6 Celebration Event, Experience Sharing and presentation by Paul McGee

  • Celebrating Getting Ahead achievements!

HeadStart FM and 4YP Radio

Russell Prue of has been a key partner in the digital work in phase 2 of HeadStart. Russell has worked with HeadStart in recording interviews with local and national experts in the field of mental health and resilience.

Through the last year, Russell has also facilitated a series of 4YP Radio shows, working with groups of young people from primary and secondary schools to create a weekly radio show in term-time, broadcast live at 4:3pm on Thursdays. These shows allow young people to communicate their ideas about HeadStart themes - for example, resilience and e-safety - and to interview professionals and school teachers about HeadStart work. Young broadcasters respond live on-air to texts, tweets and phone calls from listeners.

Social media and the HeadStart FM website

HeadStart Wolverhampton has always made extensive use of our website and social media platforms to share the work that is happening in the city, and helpful links with followers who are interested in the objectives of HeadStart and the well-being of young people.

We have over 3500 Twitter followers, and good levels of traffic arriving at our site to catch up on the news, listen to radio shows or podcasts. As we move into the next phase of HeadStart, the website will also become a resource base for documents, media and presentations which support the objectives of HeadStart.

Our most recent tweets

Evaluating school programmes in HeadStart Wolverhampton

A rigorous evaluation of our work during phase 2 of funding from The Big Lottery Fund was essential for HeadStart Wolverhampton. It allowed us to reflect on the impact of HeadStart upon the mental well-being and resilience of young people in the city, and use what we've learned to make further improvements to services.

In November 2015, an independent evaluation of school-based HeadStart programmes within the city was published by Sarah Elsey, Liz Coleyshaw, and Karl Royle, from the Centre for Developmental and Applied Research in Education, at the University of Wolverhampton. The evaluation focussed on the two main programmes that we have piloted in our phase 2 schools.

  • The Penn Resilience Programme (PRP) in secondary schools
  • SUMO for Schools (Stop, Understand, Move On) in primary schools

The report contained many positive observations and testimonies from these programmes, but also provided us with valuable insights into challenges and obstacles that staff and students in school must overcome to truly embed strategies for improving mental health and resilience into their day-to-day lives.

I have problems with my anger but it’s changed in a healthy way so if I have issues with my mum and dad, later on I can come back in the room and have a conversation about it. I’ve calmed down and can have a sensible adult conversation
— Secondary Student following Penn Resilience Programme

Selected findings

  • Both staff and pupils responded positively to the programs and both programs were seen as a useful addition to the work and life of the schools.

  • Pupils were better able to deal with challenges they face and there was a tangible improvement in terms of pupil behaviour.

  • There was a noticeable increase in the capacity of pupils to draw on resources/strategies that support and sustain well-being and resilience. Pupils understood the objectives of the programs and recognised the positive influence the programs had upon attitudes and behaviours.

  • Staff-to-pupil and pupil-to-pupil relationships had seen a marked improvement

  • Other positive impacts included increased confidence, improved decision-making skills, an increase in self-esteem, and improved stress management and reflective skills.

Karl Royle discusses the University evaluation of HeadStart Wolverhampton programmes (Audio interview)

My relationship with Miss is much better now. I understand her expectations. Before, she would get me mad. I thought she didn’t like me and I would just walk out but now I get it. I understand and we get on now
— - Year 6 student following SUMO sessions

Making our case: the phase 3 Big Lottery Bid

In February 2016, HeadStart Wolverhampton submitted a formal bid to the Big Lottery Fund for additional funding. The submission of this bid was the culmination of months of thought, discussion, and planning. The bid was drafted, discussed, and redrafted several times. We strongly believe that the final bid includes a set of realistic proposals, structures and strategies that will allow us to target support at the young people in the city who most need it.

To share our ideas for the bid, we created a digital version for young people, educational professionals, HeadStart FM visitors and the Big Lottery themselves to explore. You can find the digital version of the bid at

Here are some of the key concepts in the bid:

1. The bid has four components:

  • Citywide provision that will be available to young people all across the city
  • 'Universal' services for young people living in key geographic areas of the city where evidence suggests that need is greatest
  • 'Universal +' services for young people in key age groups in those geographic areas
  • Targeted support for the most vulnerable young people

2. Universal support will include:

  • the formation of HeadStart Hubs, central locations in each of the geographic areas, containing a dedicated team of professionals working with young people in that area
  • commissioned activities from the voluntary sector and community groups
  • accredited training programmes for educational and health professionals, and the continuing development of peer support networks

3. Universal+ support will include the following, for schools:

  • SUMO resilience and mental well-being programmes for schools: teacher training, and curriculum materials.
  • Digital literacy and internet safety programmes
  • HEROs peer support programme in schools
  • An employability work skills programme
  • Access to the HeadStarters programme

3. Targeted support will include the following:

  • Intensive support and interventions from HeadStart and CAMHS Link workers operating from HeadStart Hubs.
  • The Getting Ahead digital resilience programme
  • Activities commissioned from the voluntary sector to support young people who are close to entering the CAMHs system, or who have received recent CAMHs interventions.

Key facts and concepts for phase 3. Click to see larger.

HeadStart Apprentice Amelia Chalak introduces the digital version of the HeadStart bid

"To promote, protect and preserve the mental well-being of 10-16 year olds across our City, by inspiring them to dream big, supporting them to maintain motivation and control, and equipping them with the skills to cope with setbacks and adversity"

"To empower the young people of Wolverhampton to improve and spread awareness of their own mental well-being and that of their peers"

Mission statements for phase 3 of Wolverhampton HeadStart; the first from our Partnership Board, the second from our young person HeadStarters.

The four component model from HeadStart Wolverhampton's Phase 3 Bid (click to see larger). Screenshot from the HeadStart bid mini site at

The staffing of a HeadStart / HeadSpace Hub (click to see larger).  Screenshot from the HeadStart bid mini site at

The four geographic areas identified for 'Universal' support (click to see larger).  Screenshot from the HeadStart bid mini site at

Presenting to The Big Lottery Fund

At the end of May, representatives from the HeadStart Team, and selected student HeadStarters, went down to London to present our phase 3 bid to representatives from The Big Lottery Fund.

Our young HeadStarters did us proud, and delivered a great presentation, confidently answering questions from The Big Lottery Fund.

You can view the presentation that Kevin and the rest of the HeadStart team gave to The Big Lottery Fund here:

Phase 3 bid success. Now the hard work really begins

Now finally, in July, we have the news that we wanted to hear. HeadStart Wolverhampton has been awarded £8.8 million over the next five years to expand HeadStart services, and to make the plans in our phase 3 bid a reality.

Stay tuned to the HeadStart FM website for the latest developments. New programmes will be beginning. New people will be brought into the HeadStart Team. New collaborations will emerge. More young people will be supported, and more young people will be involved in deciding how best to support the resilience of their peers.

Thank you for your support so far. The hard work begins here.

Some final words from Viv Griffin

Date for your diary: Tuesday 13th September, HeadStart Stakeholders Event, Wolverhampton Molineux Stadium. The next phase of HeadStart Wolverhampton begins!