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Manchester Institute of Education

Applied Prevention in Education (APE)

Research in this strand applies the principles of prevention science with educational settings, with a primary focus upon behaviour, mental health and wellbeing. This includes:

  • Examining how competencies and difficulties are understood and assessed
  • The identification and understanding of risk and protective factors, and how they relate to later outcomes
  • Evaluation of school-based preventive interventions (typically through quasi-experimental or randomised designs)
  • The study of factors and processes that influence the integration of ‘evidence-based’ interventions into practice settings (eg implementation)

Funded projects

Funded APE projects that have taken place since 2014 include (in date order):

Good Behaviour Game: health-related outcomes, maintenance of effects, and economic evaluation

Funder: National Institute for Health Research

PI: Neil Humphrey 

Grant: £550,000

Duration: 2017-2020

Our EEF-funded trial of the Good Behaviour Game involves nearly 80 schools and more than 3,000 children (see other project description).  

In this NIHR-funded extension grant, we seek to determine:

  • the impact of the GBG on health-related outcomes for children
  • differential effects of the GBG for boys at-risk of developing conduct disorders
  • the moderating influence of implementation variability on intervention outcomes
  • the sustainability of the GBG’s effects on education and health-related outcomes
  • the nature and magnitude of developmental cascades between children’s educational and health-related outcomes over time
  • the extent to which the GBG can be regarded as providing value for money.

HeadStart project

Led by the Anna Freud Centre

Funder: BIG Lottery 

Lead: Neil Humphrey

Grant: £2,300,000 (£820,000 to MIE)

Duration: 2016-2023

Building on our HeadStart pilot (see other project description), in this major longitudinal study we are tracking a cohort of adolescents in six partnership areas across England from the beginning of secondary school until they are young adults.  

Each of the six partnership areas are implementing a range of universal and targeted interventions, tailored to local need, that relate to young people’s experiences in school, family, community and online contexts.  

The ultimate aim is to improve their wellbeing and reduce the incidence of mental health difficulties by promoting resilience.  

The strand of work being led by MIE involves summative evaluation of individual interventions.

Achievement for All: Effectiveness trial

Funder: Education Endowment Foundation

PI: Garry Squires and Neil Humphrey

Grant: £256,000

Duration: 2016-2020

The Achievement for All (AfA) effectiveness trial is an evaluation of the AfA schools programme, whose focus is on four areas: leadership and governance in schools; teaching and learning; parent and carer engagement; and, wider outcomes and opportunities.

The AfA schools programme aims to address attainment gaps between the lowest achieving 20% of children and their classmates. The project comprises two strands:

  • a major randomised controlled trial involving over 100 schools and more than 10,000 children. The aim of this strand is to determine whether tailored whole school approaches delivered by AfA can lead to improvements in children’s academic performance in literacy, as well as improvements in maths and resilience-related outcomes
  • an implementation and process evaluation. In this strand, our aim is to understand and unpack the complex relations that underpin such a flexible, multifaceted model of implementation, where the tailored packages delivered by AfA for one school will are likely to be different to the approach adopted for another school.

SPECTRUM: Measuring ‘essential’ skills and non-academic outcomes

Funder: Educational Endowment Foundation

PI: Michael Wigelsworth

Grant: £34,500

Duration: 2016-2017

SPECTRUM (Social, Personal, Emotional, Character and Resilience outcomes: Understanding and Measurement) is a an online, searchable database that can be used to identify a range of instruments that measure the board areas of social, personal and emotional outcomes. 

Measures can be filtered by a range of psychometric and implementation properties (e.g. 'measure of social skills suitable for children aged 8-11, less than 20 minutes to complete, free to use') and each are provided a 'star' rating for quick reference.

The database is underpinned by a systematic review used to identify measures to include, a users' guide that discusses key considerations in the assessment and measurement of SPECTRUM domains, and a conceptual mapping exercise that explores the state of the field in relation to identifiable psychological contructs that make up the SPECTRUM domains.

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The FRIENDS Programme: An evaluation of academic and emotional health outcomes

Funder: Educational Endowment Foundation

PI: Michael Wigelsworth

Grant: £167,500

Duration: 2015-2017

FRIENDS for Life is a primary school-based cognitive-behavioural preventative programme, designed to promote emotional resilience in order to prevent (or stabilise) the development of negative feelings of anxiety and depression. 

The project involves more than 3,300 year 5 pupils across 90 schools, examining the impact of FRIENDS in relation to worry, anxiety and depression, and academic attainment. Differential effects (e.g. do those ‘at risk’ benefit more from the intervention?) and the the moderating influence of implementation variability are also considered as part of the project.

Implementation and process evaluation review

Funder: Education Endowment Foundation
PI: Neil Humphrey

Grant: £25000

Duration: 2015

This review has been commissioned to inform the development of EEF guidance for evaluators on implementation and process evaluation (IPE). It involves a conceptual synthesis of research literature on the role of IPE at different stages of the development and evaluation of school-based interventions (eg pilot, efficacy, effectiveness).

Our scoping of the literature includes examination of issues such as how different aspects of implementation are defined and assessed, and the relevance and utility of qualitative, quantitative and mixed-methods approaches to IPE.

Good Behaviour Game trial

Funder: Education Endowment Foundation 

PI: Neil Humphrey 

Grant: £190,000 

Duration: 2014-2017 

The Good Behaviour Game (GBG) is a universal preventive intervention based on contingency management principles and social field theory.  In this project we are assessing the implementation and impact of the GBG for children and their teachers in English primary schools.  

A two-year cluster-randomised controlled trial design is being employed, involving 72 schools, over 100 teachers and nearly 3,000 pupils.  

Our primary outcomes are behaviour and attainment.  This is supplemented by a comprehensive implementation and process evaluation involving direct observation of practice in intervention schools (of which detailed case studies will be conducted in six). 

HeadStart: Pilot evaluation

Led by the Anna Freud Centre

Funder: BIG Lottery 

Lead: Neil Humphrey (UoM lead) 

Grant: £160,000 (£60,000 attributable to UoM) 

Duration: 2014-2016 

HeadStart is an innovative project designed to promote mental health and resilience in late childhood and early adolescence.  12 pilot areas across the country are being funded to implement a range of interventions that focus on 

  • a young person’s experiences at school
  • their ability to access community services
  • their home life and relationship with their family
  • their use of digital technology

The national evaluation of the HeadStart pilot is being led by a consortium including the Anna Freud Centre, the University of Manchester, and Common Room.  Using a range of methods, we seek to understand what works in HeadStart (in terms of impact on resilience and positive mental health), how and why it works (consideration of mechanism, process and contextual factors), barriers and facilitators to implementation, and the economic impact (quantification of savings due to intervention) of the project.  Subsequently, we aim to share learning in order to inform policy and practice.  The HeadStart pilot evaluation is distinctive in a number of ways, including the use of a truly collaborative approach involving partnerships with local areas and young people through which we will work together to construct the logic models and outcome assessment framework for the project.

Second Step social validity pilot

Funder: Committee for Children (USA) 

PI: Ann Lendrum 

Grant: £16,000 

Duration: 2014-15 

The aim of this study is to assess the initial implementation of Second Step - a universal social-emotional learning curriculum - in English primary schools and the factors that influence it (with a particular focus on social validity, acceptability and feasibility).

Through the achievement of this aim we hope to advance knowledge and understanding of the process of cultural adoption of evidence-informed preventive interventions. 

We are employing a case study design, with implementation of Second Step as the case and participating schools as embedded units of analysis.  

Six case study schools recruited using purposive maximum variation sampling will participate, and we will track them through the initial phases of implementation theorised by Fixsen (2005).

Inter-cultural knowledge exchange: social and emotional learning (SEL)

Funder: Daiwa Foundation 

PI: Ann Lendrum 

Grant: £3000 

Duration: 2014 

The aim of this project was to advance our knowledge and understanding of how culture influences the role of schools in promoting emotional wellbeing.  More specifically, we sought to explore how the cultures of England and Japan ‘translate’ social and emotional learning (SEL) through education policy and practice.   

This was achieved through two international knowledge exchange visits (one to England, one to Japan) and associated activities.  Our Japanese partner was Professor Akira Miyazaki of Yamagata University.

Inclusive: a whole-school approach to reducing bullying and aggressive behaviour in secondary school

Funder: Educational Endowment Foundation

PI: Michael Wigelsworth

Grant: £28,400

Duration: 2013-2019

Working in partnership with University College London, the INCLUSIVE project examines the effects of an secondary-school behavioural intervention on children’s academic outcomes (specifically maths and English GCEs). 

The project also draws upon wider data (behavioural measures captured as part of UCL’s assessment of the immediate intervention effects) to examine temporal relations between different variables (e.g. early behaviour explaining later attainment) to order to empirically validate the intervention logic model.

PATHS to Success

Funder: National Institute for Health Research and Education Endowment Foundation

PI: Neil Humphrey

Grant: £1,232,000

Duration: 2012-2017

The primary aim of the proposed research is to examine the impact of the Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS) curriculum on the social and emotional wellbeing of children in primary schools in England through a cluster-randomised controlled trial.  PATHS helps children manage their behaviour, understand their emotions and work well with others. It is a 'universal' intervention in which all children in a given class take part. 

The project involves over 5,000 children across 45 schools in Greater Manchester.  We seek to determine the impact of PATHS on a variety of outcomes (e.g. social-emotional competence, attainment), examine if any impact is sustained up to two years after the intervention ceases, explore how the programme helps children to adjust to secondary school, assess the role of implementation variability in mediating outcomes, empirically validate the curriculum logic model, and establish the cost-effectiveness of the approach.

Further details