Building Social and Emotional Competence in Young High-Risk School Children:

A Pragmatic Randomised Controlled Trial of the Incredible Years Therapeutic (Small Group) Dinosaur Curriculum in  Primary Schools in Wales
Abstract

Background

Parenting programmes are effective in developing children’s social skills and reducing child behavioural problems, however provision is limited, some parents cannot be recruited and although parenting programmes improve child behaviour at home this does not always generalise to school settings. School-based classroom programmes such as the Incredible Years Classroom Dinosaur Programme target whole classrooms, yet for some children this is not enough – a more intense approach is needed. The Incredible Years Therapeutic Dinosaur Programme was developed, and proved useful, for clinically referred children by increasing social skills, problem solving and peer relationships when delivered in a clinical setting.

The aim of this trial is to evaluate the effectiveness of the Therapeutic programme, delivered with small groups of children at high-risk of developing conduct disorder, within schools already implementing the Classroom Programme.

Methods

This is a pragmatic, parallel, randomised controlled trial.

Children aged 4-8 years will be recruited to the study with parental consent (N = 240). The inclusion criterion consists a teacher rating of a child as above the ‘borderline’ to ‘abnormal’ range on the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire.

Randomisation is by individual, within blocks (schools); 1:1 ratio, intervention to waiting list control, stratified by gender. Twenty schools will participate in two phases. Two teachers from each school will deliver the programme to six intervention children for 2-hours/week for 18 weeks between baseline and first follow-up. The control children will receive the intervention after first follow up. Phase 1 participants will have data collected at three points – baseline and two follow-up points, eight months post baseline and again eight months later. Phase 2 participants will not receive the second follow-up.

The IY Therapeutic Programme includes; how to do your best in school and learn school rules, understanding, identifying, and articulating feelings, problem solving, anger management, how to make and keep friends.

The primary outcomes are changes in child social, emotional, and behavioural difficulties. Secondary outcomes are teacher and parental mental wellbeing, child academic attainment, child and teacher school attendance/absenteeism. Intervention delivery will be assessed for fidelity from videotaped recordings of sessions.

Intention to treat analyses will be conducted. ANCOVA, effect sizes, mediator and moderator analyses will be applied to establish differences between conditions, and for whom the intervention works best and why.

Discussion

This trial will provide information on the effectiveness of the IY Therapeutic Programme, delivered to high-risk pupils in schools already implementing the Classroom Programme.