UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health


Learning Together

Initiating change locally in bullying and aggression through the school environment



Learning Together is a new school-based intervention which uses an innovative whole-school restorative approach to address youth bullying and aggression with the aim of improving young people’s health and well-being at a population-level and reducing health inequalities. Due to mounting evidence of health harms and economic costs associated with bullying and aggression, the intervention was developed following an NIHR HTA commissioned call. Learning Together was informed by existing evidence on the most promising school-based interventions, and piloted during the 2011-12 school-year.
Learning Together is a universal intervention, aimed at all 11 to 16 years old in participating secondary schools in England. While the intervention will have effects on the whole school, our study population of students will be those at the end of year 7 (age 11-12 years) on the first year and be at the end of year 10 at the end of the study (age 14-15), as well as all school teaching and teaching assistant staff.
Learning Together will involve students and staff working together to learn about and implement restorative practices throughout the school to prevent bullying and other aggressive behaviour and help minimize the harms associated with such problems. The purpose of 'Learning Together' is to establish effective interventions which will help to develop emotionally healthy and committed learners.
It is led by Russell Viner, Professor of Adolescent Health at University College London Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, and Chris Bonell, Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at the IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education, London, working in collaboration with a number of leading research institutions including Kings College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Benefits for schools which are chosen for the programme include a free package, worth £15 000, consisting of:

  • consultancy support from experts in the fields of restorative justice and behaviour for learning
  • restorative justice training for pupils and staff, based upon the latest research and best practice
  • bespoke curriculum guidance to develop pupils’ emotional and social skills
  • high quality data on your pupils’ perceptions of their social and emotional well-being
  • access to a network of schools with a particular interest in developing pupils’ emotional well-being

Earlier pilots of this Programme reported the intervention was highly valued by schools with staff reporting benefits for:

  • pupils’ learning behaviours and enjoyment of school
  • developing student voice
  • behaviour management for disengaged students
  • staff commitment, energy and enthusiasm
  • ensuring school environments are maintained as engaging, safe, and respectful places to be

The trial lasts for three years and must be the responsibility of a member of the senior leadership team.
The trial has now ended and results were positive and statistically significant. The full trial paper has been published on The Lancet and can be found here: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)31782-3/fulltext
Professor Russell Viner, who led the study, released an interview where the results are described and discussed: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/nov/22/conflict-resolution-programme-improves-wellbeing-of-pupils

Research Team

The Learning Together Study will be undertaken by the investigator team that successfully undertook the pilot study. The team combines expertise from six leading research institutions (University College London, Institute of Education, London school of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, Cardiff University and UCL Hospitals). The investigator team includes adolescent health researchers from a range of academic disciplines and fields, including public health, sociology, psychology, education, epidemiology, medical statistics and health economics, with a experience of large-scale trials and research into adolescent health and well-being.

Prof. Russell Viner: the Chief Investigator, is Professor of Adolescent Health at the UCL Institute of Child Health (ICH), and will manage the study financially and lead other investigators in ensuring performance against agreed timescales. He has extensive expertise in directing multi-institution research projects, of undertaking large-scale RCTs and epidemiological school surveys and has a strong track record of delivery. He holds an NIHR programme grant and is currently named on >£8 million of research funds, with >£3million as Principal Investigator. He works closely with government, particularly the Department of Health, and is part of the Children’s Health Outcomes Forum. He leads the adolescent work-stream of the Dept of Health Children, Young People and Families Policy Research Unit. RV will co-direct the project with CB, manage the trial manager and team at ICH, chair the Scientific Steering Committee and has responsibility for delivery of the project to the NIHR.

Prof. Chris Bonell: the project co-director, is Professor of Public Health Sociology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and will oversee the process evaluation. He has extensive expertise in managing large trials, process evaluations and multi-method research in secondary schools. He sits on the NIHR Public Health Board and has been a recipient of NIHR funding to undertake a systematic review of the health effects of school environment interventions. Prof. Bonell will provide supervision to the research officer employed to work on the process evaluation and will oversee the work of Dr Adam Fletcher who will work on evaluating scale-ability.

Statistics & Clinical Trials expertise: A team from the Medical Statistics Department/Clinical Trials Unit at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), led by Prof. Diana Elbourne and Dr Elizabeth Allen, will provide expertise regarding trial design and oversee the randomisation and all statistical analysis. The Medical Statistics Department/Clinical Trials Unit have a proven record of accomplishment at supporting trials funded by the HTA. DE’s expertise is in RCTs, systematic reviews, the views of consumers (especially qualitative studies of the views of participants in trials), data monitoring committees, reporting of trials, and cluster RCTs. She is a key contributor to the development of the CONSORT guidelines for cluster trials (61) and ethical considerations in such trials (100). EA is a research statistician providing expertise in medical statistics and an experienced educator. All data entry and data management (of outcome data) will also be carried out by the team from the Medical Statistics Department under the supervision of EA.

Health economics: A team from the Health Services Research and Policy Department at LSHTM, led by Dr Rosa Legood and Dr Richard Grieve, will provide expertise on the health economics. RG and RL both have significant experience of conducting economic evaluations alongside cluster randomized trials. RL was involved with the design and analysis of the pilot site research for the Learning Together study and will supervise the collection of cost and utility data. RG has recently completed a methodological research study funded by the MRC on appropriate statistical methods for analysing economic evaluations alongside cluster RCT and he will supervise this aspect of the analysis.

Meg Wiggins: is a senior researcher at the Social Science Research Unit at the Institute of Education. She has extensive experience of managing large multi-method projects focused on young people and in schools including the HTA-funded CASCADE (diabetes) trial. With support from collaborator LB, she will oversee the delivery of the intervention.

Deborah Christie: is a consultant clinical psychologist at University College London Hospitals who will provide expertise on quality of life measures and psychological outcomes in children and adolescents. She has expertise in large clinical trials in children and adolescents, and is currently CI of a large HTA funded RCT (CASCADE trial).

Stephen Scott: is a consultant child & adolescent psychiatrist with extensive experience in devising and evaluating parenting programmes to prevent anti-social behaviour through controlled trials, and uncovering the mechanisms through which interventions work. He heads the National Specialist Conduct Problems Clinic and is Research Director at the National Academy for Parenting Practitioners.

Adam Fletcher: has completed an MRC-funded post-doctoral fellowship on school effects on health and was the trial manager for the phase II pilot study. He is now based at Cardiff University in the Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement, a UKCRC centre of excellence for public health research. He will advise support the trial manager and MW to ensure we build on the pilot trial successfully, and work with CB on the process evaluation.

Jennifer McGowan: experienced trial Manager. She has extensive experience in managing study financially and ensuring performance against agreed time-scales.

Leonardo Bevilacqua: Research Assistant, PhD student. He has coordinated recruiting, data collection and processing across the whole duration of the trial.

Contact Us

Learning Together Trial Manager:
Jennifer McGowan
30 Guilford Street
Email: j.mcgowan.12@ucl.ac.uk