University of Exeter
Tools for Schools
About the Project

The flex toolkit is all about being flexible around the needs of children who are a little different. The current flex toolkit is the first version, so a prototype. We are currently testing whether schools, children and families find it useful and acceptable (and making changes to it based on feedback we get). After this stage, we will start to research whether there is evidence that it really improves things for children.

Read on to find out more…

On average, every classroom has at least one child who struggles to sit still, pay attention and resist impulses to do things like jump out of their seat. These types of behaviour are normal for most children and can be thought of like personality traits- we are all a bit hyperactive, a bit impulsive and sometimes have problems with attention. Some of us are a bit unlucky when we have high levels of all of these things, it can make it hard to focus and interact well with others at school and at home.

Children who have these traits or characteristics may need extra help to address struggles at school. Strategies are needed to help teachers support them. Existing advice for teachers is in the form of complicated programmes that try lots of different things at the same time. As a result, teachers struggle to learn and use the programmes, meaning children do not benefit from them. As every child and school are different, teachers tell us that they need a range of simple options that they can choose from to suit each child who struggles with being impulsive, over-active, or paying attention. If these problems are really severe it can be due to ADHD, or “attention deficit hyperactivity disorder”.

The flex toolkit is designed for children who have these traits whether or not they have severe enough problems to qualify for a diagnosis of ADHD. In fact, we think it should be useful for a broad range of children and using this toolkit does not mean that we think your child has ADHD, needs or should get a diagnosis.

We have spent the last two years carefully designing the toolkit. It has been designed by parents of children with ADHD, people with ADHD, school staff, SENCos, headteachers, educational psychologists, child mental health medical specialists and researchers at the University of Exeter with collaboration with other academics and ADHD specialists at the Universities of Bristol, Cambridge, Kings College London and the University of California San Francisco. Dr Abby Russell and the Tools for Schools team at the University of Exeter has led the development of flex.

To design flex, we used an approach called Intervention Mapping. This means that we used lots of sources of information to design something that we hope will work.

We brought together information from:

As we mention above, at the moment flex is a prototype. In the future we hope to do a large trial to see if it is effective at improving functioning at school and symptoms or traits of ADHD, and whether it helps teachers with the burden of managing their classroom. We also hope to expand into new toolkits for other common challenges faced by children in Primary schools as well.

Please see the Project Blog to find out more about the research process, the people involved and the presentations and publications from the project. You can also contact Dr Abby Russell ( and the Tools for Schools research team ( to ask questions or find out more.