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A pilot feasibility cluster randomised controlled trial of screening and brief alcohol intervention to prevent hazardous drinking in young people aged 14-15 years in a high school setting (SIPS JR-HIGH)

Newbury-Birch, Dorothy, Scott, Stephanie, O’Donnell, Amy, Coulton, Simon, Howel, Denise, McColl, Elaine, Stamp, Elaine, Graybill, Erin, Gilvarry, Eilish, Laing, Kirsty, and others. (2014) A pilot feasibility cluster randomised controlled trial of screening and brief alcohol intervention to prevent hazardous drinking in young people aged 14-15 years in a high school setting (SIPS JR-HIGH). NIHR Public Health Research, 2 (6). pp. 1-207. ISSN 2050-4381. E-ISSN 2050-439X. (doi:10.3310/phr02060) (KAR id:55109)

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Approximately 33% of 15- to 16-year-olds in England report alcohol intoxication in the past month. This present work builds on the evidence base by focusing on Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention (ASBI) to reduce hazardous drinking in younger adolescents.


To explore the feasibility and acceptability of a future definitive cluster randomised controlled trial (cRCT) of ASBI in a school setting to staff, young people and parents; to explore the fidelity of the interventions as delivered by school learning mentors; to estimate the parameters for the design of a definitive cRCT of brief alcohol intervention, including rates of eligibility, consent, participation and retention at 12 months; and to pilot the collection of cost and resource-use data to inform the cost-effectiveness/utility analysis in a definitive trial.


Seven schools across one geographical area in North East England.


Feasibility of trial processes, recruitment and retention and a qualitative evaluation examined facilitators and barriers to the use of ASBI approaches in the school setting in this age group. A three-arm pilot cRCT (with randomisation at the school level) with qualitative evaluation to assess the feasibility of a future definitive cRCT of the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of ASBI in a school setting, with an integrated qualitative component. The trial ran in parallel with a repeated cross-sectional survey, which facilitated screening for the trial.


Year 10 school pupils (aged 14–15 years).


Young people who screened positive on a single alcohol screening question, and consented to take part, were randomised to one of three groups: (1) feedback that their drinking habits may be risky and provision of an advice leaflet (control condition, n?=?two schools); (2) feedback as for the control condition plus a 30-minute brief interactive session, which combined structured advice and motivational interviewing techniques, delivered by the school learning mentor (intervention 1, n?=?two schools); or (3) feedback as for the control condition plus a 30-minute brief interactive session as for intervention 1 plus a 60-minute session involving family members delivered by the school learning mentor (intervention 2, n?=?three schools). Young people were followed up at 12 months.

Main outcome measures:

Feasibility and acceptability.


Randomisation was carried out at the school level. Randomisation achieved balance on two school-level variables (numbers of pupils in school year and proportion receiving free school meals).


School staff, young people and researchers were not blind to the intervention allocated.


A total of 229 young people were eligible for the trial; 182 (79.5%) were randomised (control, n?=?53; intervention 1, n?=?54; intervention 2, n?=?75). Of the 75 randomised to intervention 2, 67 received intervention 1 (89%). Eight received both intervention 1 and intervention 2 (11%). In total, 160 out of 182 were successfully followed up at 12 months (88%). Interviews were carried out with six school lead liaisons, 13 learning mentors, 27 young people and seven parents (n?=?53). Analysis shows that the school setting is a feasible and acceptable place to carry out ASBI, with learning mentors seen as suitable people to do this. Intervention 2 was not seen as feasible or acceptable by school staff, parents or young people.


It is feasible and acceptable to carry out a trial of the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of single-session ASBI with young people in the school setting, with learning mentors delivering the intervention. Future work should include a definitive study that does not include a parental arm.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.3310/phr02060
Additional information: Trial registration: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN07073105.
Uncontrolled keywords: alcohol screening, brief intervention, hazardous drinking
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare > HV5001 Alcoholism and intemperance
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1603 Secondary Education. High school teaching
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics > RJ101 Child Health. Child health services
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research > Centre for Health Services Studies
Funders: National Institute for Health Research (
Depositing User: Simon Coulton
Date Deposited: 22 Apr 2016 10:54 UTC
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2022 10:41 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Coulton, Simon:
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