Support for teachers around the world

The Incredible Years Classroom Management Programme has been shown to be effective in many different countries, as Judy Hutchings explains

THE INCREDIBLE YEARS (IY) SERIES is a suite of evidence-based programmes for parents, children and teachers, developed and researched by Carolyn Webster-Stratton over the last 30 years, for the prevention and treatment of conduct disorder and related difficulties. It has demonstrated effectiveness through high-quality randomised controlled trials (RCTs). Webster-Stratton has ensured effective dissemination, through training, resources, supervision and leader certification.

What we know
● The Incredible Years Teacher Classroom Management programme improves teacher–pupil relationships and home–school links, increases teacher competencies and develops children’s social and problem-solving skills.
● Strategies that maximise behaviour change include a collaborative delivery style, discussion, observation of videotapes of classroom situations, role-play rehearsal, and classroom-based practice between sessions.
● The programme has been shown to be effective in a variety of countries around the world.

The Teacher Classroom Management (TCM) programme is delivered to groups of teachers one day a month for five or six months. It improves teacher–pupil relationships and home–school links, increases teacher competencies and develops children’s social and problem-solving skills. Like the parent and child programmes, strategies that maximise behaviour change include a collaborative delivery style, discussion, observation of videotapes of classroom situations, role-play rehearsal, and classroom-based practice between sessions. Feedback is provided and written assignments are reviewed.

The linked IY Dinosaur School programmes promote children’s social, emotional regulation, and problem-solving skills through a therapeutic intervention and/or a classroom curriculum. The curriculum covers learning school rules, labelling feelings, problem solving, anger management, and friendship skills. The child programmes use puppets as role models, discussion, observing videotapes of children, role-play rehearsal, and homework.

A number of RCTs have included the TCM and child programmes, in various combinations with the parent programme. The TCM and Dinosaur School programmes showed significant improvements in child problem solving and peer relationships, as well as teacher behaviour.

Around the UK


The IY parent programme has received funding from the Westminster and Welsh governments to train group leaders and has been extensively researched and rolled out, primarily in early intervention settings. Take-up of the child and teacher programmes has been slower, although they are well established in Wales where they started in 2002. Pilot trials achieved good outcomes – the teacher programme was well received and strategies taught were highly rated by teachers. An RCT showed significant improvements in teacher and child behaviour using a specially designed classroom observation tool. Two pilot studies of the Therapeutic Dinosaur school programme were effective in improving child behaviour, resulting in a large-scale RCT targeting high-risk young children in 22 schools in Wales. Welsh government funding supports the child and teacher programmes with training and resources.


The TCM programme is currently being researched in Devon, where 40 teachers from 16 schools attended TCM training and reported satisfaction with the programme. This led to the Supporting Teachers And childRen in Schools (STARS) trial to evaluate whether teacher attendance at the TCM course improves children’s socio-emotional well-being and academic attainment, and teachers’ emotional well-being and sense of professional efficacy.

In this trial, 80 primary schools will be recruited over a three-year period and each school will take part for three academic years. One teacher from Reception to Year 4, the children in their classes, and the children’s parents will take part from each school. Schools randomised to the intervention will receive the TCM course. Children’s socio-emotional well-being is recorded by teachers and parents at the beginning and end of each academic year. Academic progress and scores will be validated against detailed literacy and numeracy assessments for some children. Teachers’ sense of effectiveness as a teacher and their emotional well-being will be measured. The trial started in September 2012, and 15 schools have been recruited for the pilot year with 65 schools starting in September 2013 or 2014.

Around Europe


The Incredible Years Ireland Study involved three RCTs, one of which evaluated the TCM programme – this included a qualitative study and a stand-alone cost-effectiveness analysis. The results demonstrated significant improvements in teacher classroom management strategies six and 12 months later while, after six months, aspects of child behaviour improved especially amongst children who were most “at risk”. Teachers found the TCM principles effective and easy to implement, and children responded well; significant benefits vis-à-vis teacher stress were also reported. The costs of implementing the IY TCM programme were very modest when compared to other education-based programmes.


After piloting the TCM programme in schools and kindergartens, the Norwegian IY research group started an evaluation of the programme in 2009, with matched schools and kindergartens and randomised assignment of seven pupils from each class in first to third grade (age 6–9). The trial includes 50 schools and 50 kindergartens, with 25 intervention and 25 control groups in each – approximately 4,300 pupils in total. The kindergarten groups are nearing completion and the school groups will be completed in autumn 2013. Outcome measures include teacher–child relationships, child behaviour problems, child behaviour measures, teacher–parent co-operation, and classroom behaviour, climate and behaviour measures.


Following training, in 2009 the TCM handouts were translated into Portuguese and the programme delivered to and evaluated with a group of kindergarten teachers in urban and rural areas. Results were compared with comparison schools and children were found to be showing more social competence and fewer conduct and behaviour problems. Additionally, observations by “blind” coders showed that positive classroom practices improved only in the intervention group. Programme satisfaction was very high and this provided the first evidence of the effectiveness of the programme in enhancing protective factors and reducing child risk factors, in a community sample, in Portugal. The TCM programme is now being evaluated in a broader research project alongside the parent programme to assess whether the teacher intervention adds to the effects of parental intervention. The trial will finish in 2013.

Developments further afield


Helen Baker-Henningham introduced the TCM programme into Jamaica and conducted a pilot study, in which the TCM programme was delivered in combination with sessions from the Dinosaur School curriculum. Teachers’ positive behaviour and children’s appropriate behaviour significantly increased following TCM training. She subsequently conducted a cluster RCT of an enhanced version of the programme, which included supplementary videotaped material from Jamaican classrooms, in 24 Jamaican preschools. She reported significant benefits in child behaviour based on observations, and on reports from teachers and parents. This work is being further rolled out across Jamaica.

New Zealand

In New Zealand the IY parent and TCM programmes were included in a larger national initiative managed by the Ministry of Education – the Positive Behaviour For Learning (PB4L) Action Plan. Initial outcome measures showed teacher satisfaction and self-reported positive behaviour change. Ongoing measures will include the Teacher Strategies and Teacher Satisfaction Questionnaires. The TCM programme targets teachers of three- to eight-year old children. The 2014 goal is to have delivered the TCM programme to 7,200 teachers, with 30 per cent of these being teachers of under five-year-olds.


The IY TCM programme is well evidenced, in trials by the developer and in high-quality independent trials. It is acceptable to school-based staff and very transportable. Together with the child curriculum and parenting programmes, the IY represent an excellent package of support for parents, children and teachers.

About the author

Professor Judy Hutchings is Director of the Centre for Evidence Based Early Intervention (CEBEI) research team at Bangor University. She undertakes research with referred children and their families and early preventive work with parents, children and teachers.

Further reading

Webster-Stratton C (2012), Incredible Teachers: Nurturing Children’s Social, Emotional and Academic Competence. Seattle: Incredible Years Inc.

The Incredible Years website has copies of most of the published studies in its library

Further information on the Welsh studies and activity in Wales can be obtained from or seen at

For information on the other studies, contact:


October 2012