An intervention to improve teacher well-being support and training to support students in UK high schools (the WISE study): a cluster randomised controlled trial

Judi L Kidger*, Nicholas L Turner, William Hollingworth, Rhiannon Evans, Sarah L Bell, Rowan Brockman, Lauren Copeland, Harri Fisher, Sarah K Harding, Jillian M Powell, Ricardo Araya, Rona M Campbell, Tamsin Ford, David J Gunnell, Simon Murphy, Richard W Morris

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Teachers are at heightened risk of poor mental health and well-being, which is likely to impact on the support they provide to students, and student outcomes. We conducted a cluster randomised controlled trial, to test whether an intervention to improve mental health support and training for high school teachers led to improved mental health and well-being for teachers and students, compared to usual practice. We also conducted a cost evaluation of the intervention.

Methods and findings
The intervention comprised (i) Mental Health First Aid training for teachers to support students; (ii) a mental health awareness session; and (iii) a confidential staff peer support service. In total 25 mainstream, non-fee-paying secondary schools stratified by geographical area and free school meal entitlement were randomly allocated to intervention (n = 12) or control group (n = 13) after collection of baseline measures. We analysed data using mixed-effects repeated measures models in the intention-to-treat population, adjusted for stratification variables, sex, and years of experience. The primary outcome was teacher well-being (Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale). Secondary outcomes were teacher depression, absence, and presenteeism, and student well-being, mental health difficulties, attendance, and attainment. Follow-up was at months 12 (T1) and 24 (T2). We collected process data to test the logic model underpinning the intervention, to aid interpretation of the findings. A total of 1,722 teachers were included in the primary analysis. Teacher well-being did not differ between groups at T2 (intervention mean well-being score 47.5, control group mean well-being score 48.4, adjusted mean difference −0.90, 95% CI –2.07 to 0.27, p = 0.130). The only effect on secondary outcomes was higher teacher-reported absence among the intervention group at T2 (intervention group median number of days absent 0, control group median number of days absent 0, ratio of geometric means 1.04, 95% CI 1.00 to 1.09, p = 0.042). Process measures indicated little change in perceived mental health support, quality of relationships, and work-related stress. The average cost of the intervention was £9,103 per school. The study’s main limitations were a lack of blinding of research participants and the self-report nature of the outcome measures.

In this study, we observed no improvements to teacher or student mental health following the intervention, possibly due to a lack of impact on key drivers of poor mental health within the school environment. Future research should focus on structural and cultural changes to the school environment, which may be more effective at improving teacher and student mental health and well-being.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1003847
Number of pages21
JournalPLoS Medicine
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research's Public Health Research programme 13/164/06 (JK, WH, RE, RA, RC, TF, DG, SM) The intervention costs were covered by Public Health England (JK, WH, RE, RA, RC, TF, DG, SM), Public Health Wales (JK, WH, RE, RA, RC, TF, DG, SM) and Bristol City Council (JK, WH, RE, RA, RC, TF, DG, SM). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Kidger et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Structured keywords

  • HEHP@Bristol
  • SASH


  • Schools
  • Teachers
  • Mental health
  • Randomised control trial


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