Condition category
Mental and Behavioural Disorders
Date applied
Date assigned
Last edited
Retrospectively registered
Overall trial status
Recruitment status
No longer recruiting

Plain English Summary

Not provided at time of registration

Trial website

Contact information



Primary contact

Prof Stephen Scott


Contact details

PO 85
Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Institute of Psychiatry
De Crespigny Park
United Kingdom
+44 (0)20 7848 0746

Additional identifiers

EudraCT number number

Protocol/serial number


Study information

Scientific title

Helping Children Achieve: a randomised controlled trial of parenting interventions to enhance child relationships and literacy



Study hypothesis

To test whether young children who have a conduct disorder improve more as a result of a parenting programme alone or literacy training or whether a combination of the two interventions is more successful.

Ethics approval

NHS National Research Ethics Service, 18/02/2008, ref: CREC/-7/08-134

Study design

Four-arm randomised controlled trial

Primary study design


Secondary study design

Randomised controlled trial

Trial setting


Trial type

Quality of life

Patient information sheet

Not available in web format, please use the contact details below to request a patient information sheet


Conduct and oppositional defiant disorder


The study will investigate of the extent to which behaviour and literacy problems can be ameliorated through:
1. A literacy-based intervention programme that helps parents support their child's reading
2. A well-established parenting intervention programme
3. A programme which combines these two programmes
4. A signposting service that provides parents with information about where to get help

Participating families will be randomly assigned to the intervention programmes.

1. Literacy-Based Intervention Programme:
The SPOKES literacy programme is a manualised programme devised by Professor Kathy Sylva, Ms Carolyn Crook and Professor Stephen Scott. It combines the Pause Prompt Praise approach to reading with a 'whole language' approach focusing on discussion of the book and also on language 'play' with sounds and letters. In PPP parents are trained to provide one-to-one tuition to school-age children, and its effectiveness has been replicated in many countries. PPP gives parents techniques to encourage their children's use of an active problem-solving approach to reading. The programme has been updated in collaboration with Professor Kathy Sylva and to form a literacy programme based on recent empirical evidence. It lasts for ten two-hour sessions; parents will also be given two sessions on how to help their child to concentrate and not be oppositional during reading times.

2. Parenting Intervention Programme:
The Incredible Years Parent Group programme aims to help parents build better relationships with their children and develop skills to manage difficult child behaviour effectively, using social learning, cognitive behavioural and systemic principles. It has a strong evidence base for improving child outcomes and parenting, and has been shown to create strong, positive relationships with families and pay particular attention to parents' emotional needs. The programme is respectful of parents' own culture and beliefs, and adopts a collaborative rather than instructive approach. It has been shown to be popular with parents from diverse cultures and to have low drop-out rates in real-life conditions. DVD vignettes are shown to parents in small groups; scenes depict parents sometimes behaving in a way that leads to the child being calm and obedient, and at other times in a way that leads the child to misbehave and have tantrums. The first six weeks concentrate on how to build positive relationships and promote desirable child behaviour and constructive activity through play, praise and rewards. The play element focuses on sensitive response to the child and parental approval of child on-task behaviour. The second 6 weeks focus on handling misbehaviour, including ignoring minor misbehaviour, establishing positive routines, applying consequences, and using 'time-out'. Through detailed group discussion, parental behaviour that leads to better child behaviour is drawn out. Parents practice the new techniques in role-play of their own situations. They are set tasks and encouraged to practice the new skills at home, and are telephoned mid-week to encourage progress and solve any difficulties they may have. The intervention lasts 12 weeks and each session is two hours.

3. Combined Programme:
Families allocated to the combined programme will be offered the behavioural intervention followed by the literacy intervention; the total number of sessions offered will thus be 24.

4. Signposting and Information service:
The comparison group will participate in a Signposting and Information service. Families assigned to this group will be provided with the Incredible Years parents book (2nd edition) to enable them to manage behaviour problems they are concerned about, and they will be given the parents' version of the literacy programme manual to help them read with their child. Evidence supports the efficacy of such less intensive, information-based interventions, which bring about substantial and significant change. Additionally, the parents will be provided with a telephone helpline informing them how to get in touch with local mental health services should they wish.

For all three intensive programmes, parents will be invited attend a group (to a maximum of parents of ten children) run by two group leaders for two hours. Creche facilities will be provided. The programme will be delivered in community facilities close to local schools or in the schools themselves. All of the above intervention components will adopt an active outreach approach in order to try to engage families who may be hard to reach because they are burdened with mental health, relationship or socioeconomic difficulties. Practitioners work closely with school staff to make initial contact with parents. This includes meeting parents in the classroom or in the playground, and at least two home visits to engage them. Throughout the programmes, parents are encouraged to attend and also offered incentives, such as raffles, that make the programmes fun. Close touch is maintained with parents to help them work on strategies through midweek phone calls. Two home visits are made as part of each of the programmes to support use of the strategies parents are learning.

The intervention is for 12 weeks for the separate parenting and literacy interventions and 24 weeks for the combined programme. The participants are then followed up at the end of the intervention and again after 10 months and 1 year, respectively.

Intervention type



Not Applicable

Drug names

Primary outcome measures

Conduct and oppositional defiant disorder, measured using the Parental Account of Childhood Symptoms (PACS).

Time periods of the assessments:
1. Pre-assessment: takes place at the time that the interventions starts
2. Mediator assessments: 6 and 12 weeks after interventions started
3. Post-assessments: 8 - 10 months after the intervention

Follow up is 1 year after the post-assessment.

Secondary outcome measures

1. Literacy
2. Parenting

Time periods of the assessments:
1. Pre-assessment: takes place at the time that the interventions starts
2. Mediator assessments: 6 and 12 weeks after interventions started
3. Post-assessments: 8 - 10 months after the intervention

Follow up is 1 year after the post-assessment.

Overall trial start date


Overall trial end date


Reason abandoned


Participant inclusion criteria

1. Children aged 5 - 7 years, either sex
2. Moderate symptoms of conduct disorder and/or oppositional disorder as reported by parents or teachers
3. In years 1 or 2 in primary school

Participant type


Age group




Target number of participants


Participant exclusion criteria

1. Marked developmental delay or severe behavioural difficulites that would prevent the completion of the assessments, e.g., children with marked autistic or ADHD symptoms
2. Parents who participate must be English speaking to a reasonable level

Recruitment start date


Recruitment end date



Countries of recruitment

United Kingdom

Trial participating centre

PO 85, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
United Kingdom

Sponsor information


Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) (UK)

Sponsor details

Snctuary Building
Great Smith Street
United Kingdom
+44 (0)870 001 2345

Sponsor type




Funder type


Funder name

Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) (UK)

Alternative name(s)


Funding Body Type

government organisation

Funding Body Subtype

Federal/National Government


United Kingdom

Results and Publications

Publication and dissemination plan

Not provided at time of registration

Intention to publish date

Participant level data

Not provided at time of registration

Results - basic reporting

Publication summary

2014 results in:
Stephen Scott, Kathy Sylva, Angeliki Kallitsoglou and Tamsin Ford (2014) Which type of parenting programme best improves child behaviour and reading? Follow up of The Helping Children Achieve trial. London: Nuffield Foundation

Publication citations

Additional files

Editorial Notes