How does AS Tracking work?

AS Tracking measures pupils' steering cognition. By tracking a child's steering cognition, AS Tracking is able to record the development of a child's social-emotional patterns and risks. The technology behind AS Tracking was developed over 17 years of research and development co-led by Dr Simon Walker.

Why was AS Tracking needed?

There are many adolescent mental health self-report tools. These tools were developed for a clinical market, to diagnose conditions in children already identified with concerns.

Whilst these tools have some use with individual children already referred to a clinician, when used to screen healthy adolescents who are required to supply their names, such self–reports have poor accuracy.

The reason for this is that such tools usually need to ask intrusive and even suggestive asking questions. For example, ‘Other children pick on me or bully me’ or ‘I have many fears, I am easily scared’ or ‘I am often unhappy and tearful’.

Adolescents are wary of answering such direct questions; indeed, they may want to conceal or manipulate their answers. As a result the accuracy of such self-report tools is poor. Moreoever, they have never successfully been used to track whole populations of school children year on year, to support all children whatever their needs.

AS Tracking overcomes these barriers by a different approach.

AS Tracking replaces direct, intrusive, suggestive questions with an indirect, subtle and neutral exercise. Developed through two doctoral studies, 15,000 pupil trials, over 17 years, AS Tracking measures how a child steers their actions in their imagination. Studies have shown that how a child steers their imagined actions is a strong indicator of associated social-emotional risks.

For example, a study of 2,900 secondary pupils in 2015 showed that pupils’ imagined steering biases accurately linked to risks of self-harm, bullying and not coping with pressure in 82% of cases. Further information about our research can be found on our Research page.

As a result, AS Tracking is able to identify pupils’ hidden risks without asking intrusive or suggestive questions. Often these risks may be undetected even by teachers' expert professional judgment, or by parent or pupil feedback.

AS Tracking provides a unique fourth piece of the school pastoral care jigsaw, supporting professional judgement, parent and pupil feedback.