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Mental health support and training to improve secondary school teachers’ well-being: the WISE cluster RCT

Kidger, Judi, Evans, Rhiannon ORCID:, Bell, Sarah, Fisher, Harriet, Turner, Nicholas, Hollingworth, William, Harding, Sarah, Powell, Jillian, Brockman, Rowan, Copeland, Lauren ORCID:, Araya, Ricardo, Campbell, Rona, Ford, Tamsin, Gunnell, David, Morris, Richard and Murphy, Simon ORCID: 2021. Mental health support and training to improve secondary school teachers’ well-being: the WISE cluster RCT. Public Health Research 9 (12) 10.3310/phr09120

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Background Health and Safety Executive data show that teachers are at heightened risk of mental health difficulties, yet few studies have attempted to address this. Poor teacher mental health may impact on the quality of support provided to young people, who also report increased mental health difficulties themselves. Objective To test the effectiveness of an intervention aiming to improve secondary school teachers’ well-being through mental health support and training. Design A cluster randomised controlled trial with embedded process and economic evaluations. Setting Twenty-five mainstream, non-fee-paying secondary schools in the south-west of England and South Wales, stratified by geographical area and free school meal entitlement, randomly allocated to intervention or control groups following collection of baseline measures (n = 12, intervention; n = 13, control) between May and July 2016. Participants All teachers in the study schools at any data collection. All students in year 8 (baseline) and year 10 (final follow-up). Intervention Each intervention school received three elements: (1) a 1-day mental health first aid for schools and colleges training session delivered to 8% of all teachers; (2) a 1-hour mental health session delivered to all teachers; and (3) 8% of staff trained in the 2-day standard mental health first aid training course set up a confidential peer support service for colleagues. Control schools continued with usual practice. Main outcome measures The primary outcome was teacher well-being (using the Warwick–Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale). Secondary outcomes were teacher depression, absence and presenteeism, and student well-being, mental health difficulties, attendance and attainment. Follow-up was at 12 and 24 months. Data were analysed using intention-to-treat mixed-effects repeated-measures models. Economic evaluation A cost–consequence analysis to compare the incremental cost of the intervention against the outcomes measured in the main analysis. Process evaluation A mixed-methods study (i.e. qualitative focus groups and interviews, quantitative surveys, checklists and logs) to examine intervention implementation, activation of the mechanisms of change outlined in the logic model, intervention acceptability and the wider context. Results All 25 schools remained in the study. A total of 1722 teachers were included in the primary analysis. We found no difference in mean teacher well-being between study arms over the course of follow-up (adjusted mean difference –0.90, 95% confidence interval –2.07 to 0.27). There was also no difference in any of the secondary outcomes (p-values 0.203–0.964 in the fully adjusted models). The average cost of the intervention was £9103 (range £5378.97–12,026.73) per intervention school, with the average cost to Welsh schools being higher because of a different delivery model. The training components were delivered with high fidelity, although target dosage was sometimes missed. The peer support service was delivered with variable fidelity, and reported usage by teachers was low (5.9–6.1%). The intervention had high acceptability, but participants reported low support from senior leadership, and minimal impact on school culture. Limitations Participants and the study team were unblinded, self-report for the main outcome measures and inaccurate measurement of peer support service usage. Conclusions The Wellbeing in Secondary Education (WISE) intervention was not effective at improving teacher or student well-being, or reducing mental health difficulties, possibly because of contextual barriers preventing it becoming embedded in school life. Future work Identification of ways in which to achieve system-level change and sustained support from senior leaders is important for future school-based mental health interventions.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer)
Additional Information: This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0)
Publisher: NIHR Journals Library
ISSN: 2050-4381
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 1 December 2021
Date of Acceptance: 1 September 2020
Last Modified: 04 May 2023 21:49

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