Open Access Study protocol

A cluster randomized controlled trial of the be the best you can be intervention: effects on the psychological and physical well-being of school children

Martyn Standage*, Sean P Cumming and Fiona B Gillison

Author affiliations

Department for Health, University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY, UK

For all author emails, please log on.

Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2013, 13:666  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-666

Published: 17 July 2013



The ‘Be the Best You Can Be’ (BtBYCB) program is a school-based intervention designed to foster positive physical, psychological, and social development via empowering young people to take ownership over their own personal development. The aim of this work is to determine the effectiveness of the BtBYCB program on (i) pupils’ well-being, self-perceptions, self-esteem, aspirations, and learning strategies; and (ii) changes in modifiable health-risk behaviors (i.e., physical activity, diet, smoking, and alcohol consumption).


A two-arm cluster randomized controlled trial employing a wait-list control plus qualitative and mixed-method evaluations was used. Participants were school pupils from Years 7 and 8 (aged 11–13 years). Ten schools located in southwest England were randomly allocated to receive the BtBYCB intervention (n = 5 schools; 711 pupils) or a control condition (i.e., usual Personal, Social, and Health Education classes) (n = 5 schools; 622 pupils). Participants in the intervention condition received a program consisting of (i) a talk from an Olympian/Paralympian; (ii) 11 one-hour teacher-led PSHE classroom sessions in which pupils identified their aspirations, values, and interests and explored and acted on these via activities such as personal development planning, goal-setting, and peer-mentoring; and (iii) participated in a celebration event (e.g., second visit from Olympian/Paralympian and short individual presentations). Data were collected at baseline, post-intervention, and at 3-month follow-up.

Focus groups (pupils and teachers) and individual interviews (headteachers) were conducted in the 5 intervention schools to (i) gain an in-depth understanding of mechanisms of change; (ii) explore ways in which the participants’ motivation and engagement could be enhanced, and (iii) elicit user-feedback pertaining to how the program, content, and appeal could be improved.

A mixed-method approach was used to describe and explain the differing experiences of particular groupings within and across the intervention schools; i.e., those for whom the program was effective, those that experienced little, if any change, and those for whom the program led to an inverse effect.


The findings of this work will provide insight into the effectiveness of an innovative and child-centered program. The research will inform improvements to the BtBYCB program as well as other interventions targeting child/youth health and wellness.

Trial registration

The trial is registered as Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN99443695.

Motivation; Health; Well-being; School; Communication; Self-determination theory; Children; Adolescent; Modifiable risk factors