WISE (Wellbeing in Secondary Education) project – A cluster randomised controlled trial of an intervention to improve the mental health support and training available to secondary school teachers

Lead investigator
Dr Judi Kidger

Co-Contributors: R Evans, S Bell, R Brockman, R Campbell, D Gunnell, S Harding, O Harriss, W Hollingworth, B Kadir, R Morris, K Tilling, J Grey

Teachers are consistently reported to be at increased risk of common mental health disorders compared to other occupations. The most recent Health and Safety Executive figures for self-reported stress, anxiety and distress at work show teaching professionals to have a rate of 2340 per 100 000, compared to 1220 per 100 000 for all occupations.  Failure to attend to these levels of stress and distress may lead to longer-term mental health problems, poor performance at work, sickness absence, and health-related retirement.  This has implications not only for teachers’ own health but also for the quality of staff-student relationships and student health. Teachers with poor mental health find it difficult to manage classes effectively and to develop supportive relationships with students. Difficult teacher-student relationships in secondary school have been found to increase the risk childhood psychiatric disorders and school exclusion.
Aims & objectives
To evaluate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the WISE intervention that provides peer support for secondary school teachers, and teacher training in mental health first aid.
Study design

The Wellbeing in Secondary Education (WISE) Project is a cluster-randomised trial of an intervention to improve the mental health of secondary school teachers and students.

The intervention will train 8% of school staff in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) and these individuals will set up a peer support service for colleagues, offering confidential listening, advice, and signposting to other services. A further 8% of teachers will be trained in schools’ youth MHFA to develop their knowledge and skills in supporting students. A- mental health and wellbeing awareness raising session will be delivered to all staff.

The primary outcome of the intervention is teacher wellbeing. Secondary outcomes comprise teacher depression; teacher absence; teacher presenteeism; student wellbeing; student psychological distress; student absence; student academic attainment; student attendance.  Economic and process evaluations will be conducted.

The study will be conducted in the Bristol and Cardiff areas. Twenty-four non-fee paying secondary schools will be recruited. Twelve schools will receive the intervention, and twelve will continue with their usual practice.

Research Questions:

  1. Does the WISE intervention lead to lower levels of teacher depression, absence and presenteeism, improved student wellbeing, attendance and attainment, and reduce student mental health difficulties compared to usual practice?
  2. Do any effects of the intervention differ according to the proportion of children receiving free school meals (FSM – an indicator of the socioeconomic catchment area) and geographical area, or individual level baseline mental health, gender, ethnicity and FSM?
  3. What is the cost of the WISE intervention, and is it justified by improvements to teacher and student wellbeing and reductions to teacher depression and student difficulties?
  4. Does the WISE intervention work according to the mechanisms of change hypothesised in the logic model?
  5. Is the WISE intervention sustainable?
Further information & publications

For more information on the study, please contact Judi on +44 (0) 117 331 3910 or via email at judi.kidger@bristol.ac.uk.

DECIPHer – http://decipher.uk.net/new-study-wellbeing-secondary-education-wise-project/

University of Bristol – http://www.bris.ac.uk/social-community-medicine/projects/wise/

NIHR – http://sphr.nihr.ac.uk/wise-wellbeing-in-secondary-education/

Start date
Summer 2016
End date
June 2018