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Mental health provision for children and young people in schools and FE colleges (11-25 years) with experiences of care: Mixed-method study of implementation, acceptability, need and priority outcomes  (The WiSC Study) 

Principal Investigators

Dr Sarah MacDonald and Dr Gillian Hewitt


Dr Rebecca Anthony, Dr Rachel Brown, Dr Rhiannon Evans, Dr Siôn Jones, Professor Alyson Rees


The mental health and well-being of care-experienced children and young people is a public health and social care priority. Schools are a key setting for supporting mental health and well-being, but there are limited services specific to the needs of care-experienced children and young people. To date there has been limited research to understand how schools may best support the mental heath and well-being of this population, and how they might work with stakeholders across educational, health and social care systems as part of this process. There is also a lack of understanding about how this population are supported at key transition points, notably during the transition to post-16 education.

Aims and Objectives

The aim is to understand stakeholder experiences of delivering and receiving mental health and wellbeing provision for care-experienced children and young people (aged 11-25) in secondary schools in Wales and in the further education (FE) sector, and to make recommendations to develop and optimise provision.

Six research questions address the study aim:

1) What do secondary-schools currently provide when supporting the mental health and emotional wellbeing of children with experience of care?

2) How is the mental health and wellbeing of children with experience of care supported as they transition to post-16 educational settings?

3) How do schools work with wider social care, health and educational professionals to deliver provision?

4) What are key barriers and facilitators to implementing mental health and wellbeing provision for children with experience of care and how do contextual factors determine these barriers and  facilitators?

5) How is current provision experienced by children, carers and professionals? How is provision differentially experienced by those with Special Guardianship Orders, care-experienced or adopted?

6) What are the current and future provision needs for children with experience of care? Are there priority outcomes that should be measured and monitored?

Study Design

The mixed-method study comprises five inter-related work packages.

  • Work Package 1 – secondary analysis of School Health Research Network datasets to map prevalence in mental health and wellbeing provision in secondary schools.
  • Work Package 2 – interviews with children and young people, parents and carers and staff in secondary schools to explore experiences of delivery and receipt of provision.
  • Work Package 3 – interviews and focus groups with young people and staff in two FE colleges to explore experiences of transition from secondary school and the delivery and receipt of provision in the FE sector.
  • Work Package 4 – interviews and focus groups with senior managers and social workers from Child Services and Foster Carer social work teams and with mental health nurses and managers from CAMHS teams to explore experiences of provision delivery across educational settings.
    A thematic analytical approach will be applied across the four work packages, focussing on contextual determinants of mental health provision within educational and social care systems.
  • Work Package 5 – integration of findings and draft recommendations for discussion in stakeholder workshops with children and young people, parents and carers, practitioners and policy-makers, prior to finalising recommendations for optimising provision.

Start date

1st October 2022

End date

30th April 2024


Health and Care Research Wales