The Dartington Social Research Unit (DSRU) has undergone a transformation. It is now operating as the Dartington Service Design Lab; see: This website is an archive of DSRU activity is no longer updated.

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ChildrenCount Wellbeing Surveys

Tools to measure the health and development of populations of children, from conception to early adulthood

ChildrenCount Wellbeing Surveys

Tools to measure the health and development of populations of children, from conception to early adulthood


Project lead: Tim Hobbs, PhD

The ChildrenCount Well-being Surveys are a suite of tools designed to measure - at the local population level - children’s health and development from birth to early adulthood. The tools also assess local influences upon child outcomes and the degree to which existing services meet local needs. 


Increasingly important in times of austerity, these high quality local data help leaders of children’s services prioritise and understand the drivers of poor outcomes and opportunities for intervention. Used as part of a wider place-based approach, these data help inform needs-driven investment and commissioning strategies.

If you are looking for the ChildrenCountData Portal click here

Our role

We delivered the ChildrenCount Well-being Surveys to over 100,000 children and families.  

The ChildrenCount 0-8 and 9-16 Surveys have been delivered in numerous local authorities in England and Scotland, including Birmingham, Renfrewshire, Perth and Kinross, Angus, Dundee and North Ayrshire: each with sample sizes ranging from 5,000 to 20,000 children. 




In addition, we delivered the ChildrenCount 0-8 Survey to almost 12,000 parents of young children across 19 local authorities in England as part of the Big Lottery Fund’s £215m A Better Start programme. 

We also developed and tested the ChildrenCount 16-24 Survey in the London Borough of Camden as part of the Minding the Gap project. 

Funders and collaborators

Funder: The Annie. E. Casey Foundation (as part of the Evidence2Success framework).

Collaborators: Design of tools: a range of international experts in child development and epidemiological research, including the Social Research Development Group, University of Washington; Del Elliot, University of Colorado; and Kris Moore, ChildTrends.




Local authorities who administered earlier iterations of the tools as part of a wider strategy development process. 

Duration:  Ongoing.


Outputs and Resources

What do the surveys measure?

Each survey measures a range of ‘key developmental outcomes’ and associated risk and protective factors, not typically available at the local level via existing data. 

Key Developmental Outcomes are defined as malleable and developmentally specific indicators of well-being (such as poor communication and language development in the early years, early-onset behavioural problems or substance misuse).  

The surveys also assess a wide range of family, peer, school and community risk and protective factors: characteristics, experiences or contexts that increase or decrease the likelihood of difficulties in relation to one or more outcome areas. Examples include poor family management, opportunities and rewards for pro-social behaviours and social cohesion. 

The ChildrenCount Well-being Surveys are comprised of standardised and validated measures which have been tested and found reliable in the UK. Instruments include, for example, the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). All findings are reported at the aggregate (not at the individual child) level.


How are the surveys administered?

The ChildrenCount 9-16 Survey is a child self-report tool administered online in schools. We routinely achieve response rates in excess of 85% with sample sizes up to 20,000 children. The ChildrenCount 0-8 and 16-24 Surveys are administered to parents and young adults, respectively, via a household survey. Sample sizes range from 500 to 800 parents or young adults. 

Visualising the data

We produce a series of interactive and dynamic visualisations of the data, allowing users to prioritise outcomes, understand the strength of association of links between outcomes and local influences and create a narrative underpinning local need to inform investment decisions. Each participating school receive their own individualised report.

To find out more click here  or contact us here.


Presentations from the Transforming Children's Services Conference, Perth, 18th March 2016

/ Video

The Dartington Social Research (DSRU) and the Improving Outcomes for Children consortium were delighted to host the national conference on Transforming Children’s Services: Using the best evidence to get it right for every child.

Link: view video

Reflections and lessons from five Scottish sites

/ Report

A paper drawing together lessons and reflections from the Unit’s work in five localities over the last five years.

Link: view report