Rolling out mental health trials in schools

Source: NHE March/April 2019

Anna Moore and Dr Daniel Hayes, researchers at the Evidence Based Practice Unit (UCL and Anna Freud Centre), discuss their leading research into mental health and wellbeing in schools.

As recently announced by the education secretary Damian Hinds, thousands of children and young people are taking part in our randomised control trials evaluating different mental health and wellbeing interventions in schools. The latest NHS digital prevalence survey suggested that emotional difficulties in young people are on the rise, and one in eight five- to 19-year-olds have at least one mental health difficulty. These figures highlight the need for action – the Department for Education is funding us to deliver the Education for Wellbeing programme, one of the largest studies in the world of its kind.

The Anna Freud Centre is committed to building the evidence base for mental health in schools, and the Education for Wellbeing programme forms part of the centre’s extensive work with schools across England. It provides resources and support for pupils, teachers and parents, and through its research contributes to evidence-based practice, informing policy at a local and governmental level.

Led by the Evidence Based Practice Unit (EBPU) (UCL and Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families), over 370 schools and around 30,000 pupils across England will take part in the drive to produce robust evidence about what works best for pupils’ mental health and wellbeing.

The Education for Wellbeing programme consists of two separate trials: AWARE and INSPIRE. Both explore the impact of different mental health and wellbeing approaches in school, in recognition of the significant time children spend at school and the important role that school staff can play in recognising changes in pupils’ behaviour or mood.

AWARE (150 secondary schools) aims to implement and evaluate two interventions with Year 9 pupils. Both interventions focus on improving pupil’s knowledge and awareness around mental health, reducing stigma, and encouraging help-seeking.

  • Youth Aware of Mental Health (YAM) is delivered in schools by external mental health professionals. It is a structured programme of five sessions involving group discussions and role plays.
  • The guide aims to increase mental health literacy in pupils and staff and consists of six sessions delivered by trained teachers.

INSPIRE (160 primary and 70 secondary schools) investigates three interventions aimed at improving pupils’ wellbeing. Schools are working with Years 4, 5, 7 and 8 to evaluate approaches delivered by trained school staff:

  • Mindfulness is delivered for five minutes each day and consists of mindful breathing exercises and other activities focused on self-awareness of sensations, emotions, and thoughts.
  • Relaxation is also delivered to classes for five minutes every day and involves deep breathing and muscle relaxation exercises.
  • Strategies for Safety and Wellbeing draws on emerging practice in some UK schools around teaching practical approaches to personal safety (protective behaviours). It consists of eight 45-minute sessions in which pupils explore the themes of risk, noticing early warning signs, and recognising the importance of support networks.

The evaluation team at EBPU are using survey data, focus groups, and interviews to examine the impact and experiences of these interventions on pupils and staff when compared to usual practice. This research has the potential to transform mental health promotion in schools, giving teachers and other school staff the confidence to promote pupil wellbeing and support the children and young people they work with.

We are delighted to have received great feedback from schools involved. One young person said: “…if it was to be all around the country, it will help other schools as well. It will raise awareness about what’s going on and I think it will help… It will make the country a better place I think, to be very honest.

A class teacher said: “I feel empowered by it, you know? I feel like these subjects are not talked about enough.”

We are currently recruiting secondary schools to take part. If you know a secondary school that may be interested in taking part, please visit our website for further information.

Enjoying NHE? Subscribe here to receive our weekly news updates or click here to receive a copy of the magazine!


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment


national health executive tv

more videos >

latest healthcare news

Nurses named as least-appreciated public sector workers

13/06/2019Nurses named as least-appreciated public sector workers

Nurses have been named as the most under-appreciated public sector professionals as new research reveals how shockingly under-vauled our NHS, edu... more >
Creating the Cardigan integrated care centre

10/06/2019Creating the Cardigan integrated care centre

Peter Skitt, county director and commissioner for Ceredigion Hywel Dda University Health Board, looks ahead to the new integrated care centre bei... more >
Helpforce to launch training programmes for NHS volunteers

10/06/2019Helpforce to launch training programmes for NHS volunteers

Kay Fawcett OBE, clinical advisor and education lead at Helpforce, and Lynn Twinn, talent development consultant, outline the new national traini... more >

681 149x260 NHE Subscribe button

the scalpel's daily blog

Mid Yorks Hospitals NHS Trust: Our improvement journey

28/05/2019Mid Yorks Hospitals NHS Trust: Our improvement journey

Chief executive of the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, Martin Barkley, writes for NHE to guide us through his trust’s improvement journey. It’s arguably a hackneyed phrase in the NHS, but Mid Yorkshire really has been on a significant journey in the last few years. Dogged by a previously problematic reputation, I believe the trust now has a realistic ambition of achieving a CQC rating of ‘Outstanding’ within t... more >
read more blog posts from 'the scalpel' >


How can winter pressures be dealt with? Introduce a National Social Care Service, RCP president suggests

24/10/2018How can winter pressures be dealt with? Introduce a National Social Care Service, RCP president suggests

A dedicated national social care service could be a potential solution to surging demand burdening acute health providers over the winter months,... more >
RCP president on new Liverpool college building: ‘This will be a hub for clinicians in the north’

24/10/2018RCP president on new Liverpool college building: ‘This will be a hub for clinicians in the north’

The president of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has told NHE that the college’s new headquarters based in Liverpool will become a hu... more >
Duncan Selbie: A step on the journey to population health

24/01/2018Duncan Selbie: A step on the journey to population health

The NHS plays a part in the country’s wellness – but it’s far from being all that matters. Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Pu... more >
Cutting through the fake news

22/11/2017Cutting through the fake news

In an era of so-called ‘fake news’ growing alongside a renewed focus on reducing stigma around mental health, Paul Farmer, chief exec... more >

last word

Hard to be optimistic

Hard to be optimistic

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, warns that we must be realistic about the very real effects of continued underfunding across the health service. It’s now bey... more > more last word articles >

editor's comment

25/09/2017A hotbed of innovation

This edition of NHE comes hot on the heels of this year’s NHS Expo which, once again, proved to be a huge success at Manchester Central. A number of announcements were made during the event, with the health secretary naming the second wave of NHS digital pioneers, or ‘fast followers’, which follow the initial global digital e... read more >

health service focus

Can the NHS find savings in their energy bills?

10/06/2019Can the NHS find savings in their energy bills?

As the NHS works harder than ever to meet cha... more >
Delivering personal health budgets with the Liaison Care Calculator

07/06/2019Delivering personal health budgets with the Liaison Care Calculator

Supporting health and social care organisatio... more >