School-based mental health prevention programmes can be effective but their adoption within schools will depend on their social acceptability. We report a qualitative evaluation summarising the views of children (115), parents (20) and school staff (47) about a universal school-based anxiety prevention programme FRIENDS. This study was conducted as part of a large scale randomised controlled trial (n = 1362) involving 40 schools in the UK providing primary education to children aged 7–11. Reported overall experience of the programme was very positive, with all three major components of the cognitive behaviour therapy programme (emotional, cognitive, and behavioural) being accepted well and understood by children. The programme was considered to be enjoyable and valuable in teaching children important skills, particularly emotional regulation and coping. Children provided examples of using the skills learned during FRIENDS to manage their emotions and solve problems. However, teachers were concerned that the programme overlapped with the current school curriculum, required additional time and almost half were unable to identify any tangible changes in the children’s behaviour. Whilst this paper provides evidence to support the social validity of the FRIENDS anxiety prevention programme, the concerns raised by teachers question the longer-term sustainability of the programme.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental and Educational Psychology