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Pictorial questionnaire helps gauge happiness level of young school children

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A simple new questionnaire based on facial expressions could help school nurses and others who work with children as young as four to engage them on their happiness and wellbeing levels.

The How I Feel About My School (HIFAMS) questionnaire, designed by researchers at the University of Exeter’s medical school, is available to download for free.

“I hope schools will take advantage of this free resource”

Tamsin Ford

It uses emoticon-style faces with options of happy, ok or sad. It asks children to rate how they feel in seven situations including on the way to school, in the classroom and in the playground.

It is designed to help teachers and others to communicate with very young children on complex emotions, said those behind the innovation.

The questionnaire, which is featured in a study paper published in the journal Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, found parents and teachers consistently scored children’s happiness levels slightly higher than children scored their own.

The team consulted children to find a format that they could relate to and engage with. Once completed, the questionnaire has an easy scoring system, out of 14.

An average score is around 11 or 12, with children who are encountering particular difficulties at school scoring lower. Those facing suspension or expulsion typically scored around eight or lower.

Tamsin Ford, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry, led the design work on the tool, which involved children giving feedback on the style of questionnaire they could relate to best.

She said: “When we’re carrying out research in schools, it can be really hard to meaningfully assess how very young children are feeling.

“We couldn’t find anything that could provide what we needed, so we decided to create something,” she said.

University of Exeter

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Tamsin Ford

The need for the tool arose from another study, also led by Professor Ford, which is seeking to analyse whether a course designed to improve teachers’ classroom management skills is effective.

Professor Ford said: “We needed a simple way for children of all ages to tell us how they are feeling in relation to different areas of schooling. Our new resource makes that possible.

“More than 2,000 children in Devon have now completed the questionnaire,” she said. “It has proved a very useful tool.”

She added: “I hope schools will take advantage of this free resource to open up conversations with children in talking about their feelings and to give them a voice, particularly around key decisions that may affect them.”

The university’s website provides more information on the innovation and the questionnaire can also be downloaded for free.

University of Exeter

Pictorial questionnaire helps gauge school child happiness level

Face scale of the HIFAMS questionnaire

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