Evidence Based Practice Unit


Research projects

Brief Educational workshops in Secondary Schools Trial (BESST) 


Funder: Department for Health and Social Care

Duration: 2021 – 2023

Lead: Jessica Deighton

BESST is a large, national study testing the effectiveness of a day-long workshop programme called ‘DISCOVER’, for 16–18-year-old students experiencing low mood, stress or anxiety. DISCOVER aims to improve engagement, offer effective treatment and maintain participants’ motivation and improvement to reduce relapse. The study is supported by King’s College London (KCL). It is taking place in multiple sites across England: London, the South West, the North West, and the Midlands. It will involve a total of 60 schools and colleges and 900 sixth form students. 

The study builds on prior research with over 100 students, which proved there was sufficient interest from students to run this larger study. The next step is to investigate whether the workshop programme is effective in reducing participants’ stress and improving their wellbeing with larger groups of sixth form students in these areas before it can be offered more widely in the UK.

There are several geographic hubs for BESST. The Evidence Based Practice Unit leads activity in North West England.

Further information can be found on the KCL website.

Community F-CAMHS

Funder: NHS England and NHS Improvement

Duration: 2018 – 2021

Lead: Julian Edbrooke-Childs

About: The Evidence Based Practice Unit and the Child Outcomes Research Consortium 

We were commissioned by NHS England and NHS Improvement to evaluate the implementation and impact of Community Forensic Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (F:CAMHS) across England. 

Community F:CAMHS are 13 highly specialist Tier 4 services. Community F:CAMHS provides input to the network around children and young people who are experiencing mental health and/or learning difficulties, and who are in contact with the youth justice system or present with a high risk of harm to self or others. 

Our evaluation study comprised a mixed-methods design, combining quantitative service activity and feedback data, questionnaires and interviews with young people or their parents and carers, and interviews with staff and referrers. We also carried out an economic evaluation.

Education for Wellbeing

Funder: Department for Education

Duration: 2018 2024

Lead: Jessica Deighton

About: Education for Wellbeing is England's largest research trial of school-based mental health interventions. Schools are randomly allocated to use one of the following approaches:

  1. A set of five lessons for Year 9 that use role play designed to improve pupils’ understanding of mental health and reduce suicide rates. Developed in Sweden and America, Youth Aware Mental Health (YAM) encourages pupils to share their own ideas about how to maintain good mental health and how to help each other to find ways to resolve everyday dilemmas.
  2. A teacher training programme developed in Canada called The Guide. Adapted for England for the study, it develops teachers’ understanding of mental health, trains them on how to teach their pupils about it and addresses stigma.
  3. A series of eight lessons designed to increase young people’s skills around personal safety and managing their mental health, as well as helping them to identify their support networks.
  4. Training pupils in relaxation techniques embedded into the school day, every day for five minutes.
  5. Training pupils in mindfulness embedded into the school day, every day for five minutes.

So far, the programme has reached over 35,000 pupils across 400 schools.

The Evidence Based Practice Unit is evaluating the approaches, examining their impact on pupils’ mental health and wellbeing.

More information:

HeadStart Learning Team

Funder: The National Lottery Community Fund

Duration: 2017 2023

Lead: Jess Deighton

About: HeadStart is a six-year, £67.4 million National Lottery funded programme set up by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK. It aims to explore and test new ways to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people aged 10 to 16 and prevent serious mental-health issues from developing.

Six local authority led HeadStart partnerships in Blackpool, Cornwall, Hull, Kent, Newham and Wolverhampton are working with local young people, schools, families, charities, community and public services to make young people’s mental health and wellbeing everybody’s business.

EBPU is working with The National Lottery Community Fund and the HeadStart partnerships to collect and evaluate evidence about what does and does not work locally to benefit young people, now and in the future. Partners working with the EBPU on this evaluation include the University of Manchester and the Child Outcomes Research Consortium, a project of the Anna Freud Centre. This collaboration is called the HeadStart Learning Team. Previous partners in the HeadStart Learning Team include LSE and Common Room.

The Link Programme

Funder: Department for Education

Duration: 2019 2022 

Lead: Jaime Smith and Melissa Cortina

AboutEBPU led the development of the CASCADE framework which helps schools and specialist mental health services audit their work together and develop better working relationships. This framework was used as part of the Link Programme.

The Link Programme was delivered by the Anna Freud Centre and supported by NHS England and strategic leaders from clinical commissioning groups, local authorities, education departments, and the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector. The aim of the programme was to bring together local leaders in education and mental health to share challenges and best practice.

The resulting discussions and workshops enabled local areas to identify and develop pathways to timely and appropriate support for children and young people.

The Evidence Based Practice Unit evaluated the rollout of the Link Programme.

    The Mercers' Company Schools Evaluation

    Funder: The Mercers' Company

    Duration: 2016 2022

    Lead: Jess Deighton

    About: This project, which is a collaboration between the Evidence Based Practice Unit, the Child Outcomes Research Consortium, and the University of Manchester, aims to support The Mercers' Company's schools and colleges to monitor and evaluate their provision for their pupil’s mental health and wellbeing. 

    The original project engaged 13 schools and colleges across England from 2016 to 2019. The key elements of the project included the implementation of the Wellbeing Measurement Framework (WMF) survey across selected year groups, ongoing support and guidance for participating sites to develop local evaluation work and in-depth evaluation support from the project team for a number of interventions. Alongside this was a commitment to engage sites in regular workshops to share national learning about children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing, to explore what sites are learning locally and to widen the capabilities of sites to evaluate and make sense of the resulting information.

    The continuation of funding between 2019 and 2022 will allow us to expand our work with sites to embed routine evaluation and the meaningful use of associated learning to improve services for pupils' and students' mental health and wellbeing.

    The Mercers’ Company has been involved in education for more than 500 years, since the foundation of St. Paul’s School in 1509. They aim to be a force for educational innovation and excellence for the benefit and future success of students from a wide range of social and economic backgrounds.

    The Framework of Integrated Care (SECURE STAIRS)

    Funder: NHS England and NHS Improvement

    Duration: 2018 2021

    Lead: Julian Edbrooke-Childs

    About: The Evidence Based Practice Unit (EBPU) and the Child Outcomes Research Consortium evaluated the implementation and impact of the Framework of Integrated Care (SECURE STAIRS). 

    The Framework for Integrated Care (SECURE STAIRS) is being implemented across the children and young people’s secure estate (CYPSE) in under-18 young offender institutions, secure training centres and secure children’s homes. It aims to improve the quality of care and outcomes for children and young people in the CYPSE. Eighteen sites in England are included in the national evaluation. The Framework for Integrated Care (SECURE STAIRS) provides a framework for a new way of working in the CYPSE that involves training staff to provide more developmentally-attuned, psychologically-informed care, which is centred around comprehensive, co-produced assessments of young people’s needs to ensure that all needs are identified.

    EBPU researchers conducted a mixed-methods evaluation to explore the implementation and impact of the Framework for Integrated Care (SECURE STAIRS) and whether it results in sustained cultural changes. As part of the evaluation, sites collected routine service activity data and staff, children and young people and their parents and carers completed questionnaires. A smaller number of interviews and focus groups were conducted with staff and young people, and observations of staff meetings were carried out. An economic evaluation also took place.

    Data collection took place between August 2018 and December 2020. Findings have been submitted to NHSE&I to inform policy and practice. Access the evaluation report.