NIHR SPHR’s Breakthrough Mentoring scheme has completed a feasibility study which indicates it would be possible to undertake a large scale Randomised Control Trial (RCT) to test the effectiveness of youth mentoring in the UK. The research team is led by Professor Rona Campbell (the University of Bristol).
Young people can experience social and behavioural problems that result in engagement in risky behaviours such as drug taking, poor school attendance or exclusion from school. This can affect later life chances with high costs to the individual and society. Providing a vulnerable young person with an adult mentor is thought to help them develop life skills, confidence and good health and prevent negative outcomes such as unemployment, entry into the criminal justice system, mental illness or premature death.
Breakthrough Mentoring carefully matches a young person with an adult mentor who has similar interests. Twenty-one secondary school students, aged 11 to 16 years, whom the school thought would benefit from mentoring, participated in a pilot RCT. Its purpose was to determine if it would be possible to undertake a large scale scientific evaluation of the effectiveness of mentoring in improving behaviour, health and wellbeing.
The RCT format was acceptable to students, parents, schools because they understood the randomisation process and purpose of the research. High levels of response were achieved throughout. Students who received Breakthrough Mentoring indicated that having a mentor unconnected with the school that they could talk to about their problems helped them to give voice to and deal with difficult feelings.
The success of this feasibility study indicates it would be possible to undertake a large scale RCT to test the effectiveness of young mentoring in the UK but that it would need to be larger than originally envisaged and therefore multi-centred. Schools are only likely to be prepared to participate in such an experiment if at least some of the costs of mentoring are met from elsewhere.
TagsChanging behaviour at population levelChildren young people & familiesPublic Mental Health