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Research and Projects

Supporting Teachers and Children in Schools (STARS)

Who is involved?

Theme: CLAHRC - Healthy People, Healthy Environments
Status: Complete

Read a BITE sized summary of this project.


The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) released guidelines into Promoting Children's Social and Emotional Well-being in Primary Education, in 2008. NICE recommended that schools implement programmes to promote emotional and social well-being, working closely with parents and, where necessary, local authority children's services.

Figures from 1999 and 2004 indicate that 10% of children and young people aged between 5 and 16 years had a clinically diagnosed mental disorder, including emotional, conduct and hyperkinetic disorders.  Devon Primary Care Trust estimate that approximately 9,000 children between ages 5 and 15 are likely to have one or more diagnosable mental health problems in Devon.

Poor socio-emotional adjustment in childhood may compromise mental health and academic attainment and can adversely impact on life chances of all the children in a classroom, particularly children living in deprived circumstances. Disruptive behaviour is a common source of stress among teachers, and a common reason for many leaving the profession.

Despite the research and guidelines available, there is no specific guidance on how social and emotional well-being should be promoted in primary schools.  The Supporting Teachers And childRen in Schools (STARS) study will examine whether the Incredible Years Teacher Classroom Management course may enhance teachers’ skills in promoting socio-emotional well-being among their pupils.

If effective, TCM could transform the classroom from an environment where many children currently struggle to cope, particularly boys from low socio-economic backgrounds, into one where many more children can thrive. Enhancing teachers’ skills potentially benefits all children that come into contact with that teacher over subsequent years, so TCM may be a particularly cost-effective way to assist the most vulnerable children in our society.

What is Teacher Classroom Management?

The Teacher Classroom Management (TCM) programme comprises a one day session per month over a six month period, delivered to groups of 10 teachers. The focus is on collaborative learning, discussions of teachers’ own experiences and group work to find solutions to problems encountered in the classroom. The following principles underpin the TCM approach:

• the importance of teacher attention, encouragement and praise
• motivating children through incentives
• preventing behaviour problems – promoting the proactive teacher
• decreasing children’s inappropriate behaviours
• building positive relationships with children and encouraging them to problem solve

The TCM course will be delivered by Behaviour Support Professionals from Devon and Plymouth.

Supporting Teachers And childRen in Schools (STARS)

STARS is a programme of work focused on the development of a cluster randomised controlled trial (RCT) of the Incredible Years Teacher Classroom Management (TCM) course.

The project was funded by a grant from the National Institute for Health Research Public Health Research (NIHR PHR) Programme (project number 10/3006/07).

Preparatory work for STARS trial

The First Feasibility Study has been completed in which 20 teachers from six schools in Devon completed the TCM course, held between January-June 2011. The teachers completed a series of questionnaire measures and attended a focus group to gain their views on the course in terms of its relevance and applicability to their practice. Overall the feedback was extremely positive and teachers stated that they were already using many of the strategies in their classrooms. Headteachers were also interviewed to give advice about research processes to help plan the RCT.

A Second Feasibility Study was carried out between January – June 2012 with 20 teachers from a further 10 schools in Devon and Plymouth, which extended the work of the First Feasibility Study. Similarly, the feedback from the participating teachers and headteachers was extremely positive, with teachers stating that their attendance at the course had a positive impact on their classrooms. All the information obtained from the two Feasibility Studies has been used to develop a cluster randomised controlled trial (detailed below).

Our Group has also developed and tested a measure to record how young children feel about school, which will be used in the STARS trial.

STARS – A cluster randomised controlled trial with parallel economic and process evaluations

This trial took place in 80 primary schools in Devon, Plymouth and Torbay over five years. Schools were recruited over a three year period with 15 schools starting the study in September 2012, 30 schools in September 2013 and 35 schools in September 2013.  Each school participated for three academic years to allow for two years of follow up. One teacher from each school was randomly allocated to attend the TCM course or to be a control. Control teachers waited until the following academic year before attending the TCM course.

Specifically, STARS evaluated whether increasing teachers’ skills in dealing with children who are difficult to manage in a classroom environment lead to improvement in:

• the child’s emotional wellbeing
• the child’s behaviour in the classroom
• the child’s academic attainment
• the teacher’s view of their own effectiveness as a teacher
• the teacher’s levels of stress and wellbeing
• the child’s view of school

We used focus groups and interviews to find out from teachers, head teachers and special educational needs coordinators (SENCos) to see how useful they thought TCM is, whether they used it in their practice and schools, and how it fiited with other sources of support for emotional and behavioural difficulties.

Using questionnaires completed by parents and SENCos, backed up by detailed interviews with some parents, we found out about additional help accessed by families in relation to their child’s socio-emotional adjustment to look for cost-savings that TCM might generate by reducing demands on educational support and mental health services.

Advisory Group

Our Advisory Group, comprising teachers, behavioural support network professionals and parents, monitor the study and ensure that it is designed and carried out in a way acceptable to schools and parents.


The first cohort of 15 schools started the study in September 2012. Schools were also recruited to take part in study in September 2013 and September 2014. 

In October 2014 the STARS project received an additional £60,000 funding from the NIHR Public Health Research programme to expand their analysis of data collected during the trial through linking to the National Pupil Database.  This link will greatly broaden the range of educational outcomes that the project will be able to explore, with the additional option to track the study participants forwards in time in relation to key educational outcomes.

Next steps

In September 2015 the team received funding from the University of Exeter ESRC Impact Acceleration Account to conduct a feasibility study called  ‘Supporting Teaching staff to Enable children to build Emotional Resilience’ (STEER).

This explored whether or not the TCM course is also helpful for Teaching Assistants/Learning Support Assistants and children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) which included some emotional or behavioural difficulties.

We worked with a total of nine schools on the STEER project, three of which are specialist schools. The study ran from September 2015 to March 2016.


Evidence suggested that the training has the potential to improve the mental health of children, especially those who were initially struggling. If this training was offered to all teachers and teaching assistants the impact and effects may also be greater. 

Professor Tamsin Ford, led the research. She said:

 "Let’s remember that training one teacher potentially benefits every child that they subsequently teach. Our study offers evidence that we should explore this training further as a whole school approach.”

As well as the improvements in mental health, behaviour and concentration, teachers liked the training and thought it was useful. Observations suggest that it changed their behaviour, and improved child compliance in the classroom.


Read a recent feature on the STARS project on our Exposure page.

For further information, visit or email

Related publications

Nye E, Gardner F, Hansford L, Edwards V, Hayes R, & Ford T. Classroom behaviour management strategies in response to problematic behaviours of primary school children with special educational needs: views of special educational needs coordinators. Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties (2016) 21:1, 43-60

Ford T, Hayes RA, Byford S, Edwards V, Fletcher M, Logan S, et al. The effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the Incredible Years® Teacher Classroom Management programme in primary school children: results of the STARS cluster randomised controlled trial with parallel economic and process evaluations. National Institute for Health Research [In press].

Titheradge D, Hayes R, Longdon B, Allen K, Price A, Hansford L, et al. Psychological distress amongst primary school teachers; a comparison  with clinical and population samples. Public Health Accepted subject to revisions.

Ford T, Hayes R, Byford S, Edwards V, Fletcher M, Logan S, et al. The effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the Incredible Years® Teacher Classroom Management programme in primary school children: results of the STARS cluster randomised controlled trial. Psychological Medicine 2018; 10.1017/S0033291718001484. 

Allwood M, Allen K, Price A, Hayes R, Edwards V, Ball S, et al. The Validity and Reliability of the Pupil Behaviour Questionnaire: a Child Classroom Behaviour Assessment Tool. Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties 2018;Online. 

Price A, Allen K, Ukoumunne OC, Hayes R, Ford T. Examining the psychological and social impact of relative age in primary school children: a cross-sectional survey. Child: Care, Health and Development 2017; 10.1111/cch.12479. 

Allen K, Marlow R, Edwards V, Parker C, Rodgers L, Ukoumunne OC, et al. ‘How I Feel About My School’: The construction and validation of a measure of wellbeing at school for primary school children. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry 2017; doi:10.1177/1359104516687612:1-17

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