Background  School-based interventions involving teacher and/or child training have been shown to benefit teacher practices and to prevent conduct problems and improve children's social and emotional competence in developed countries; however, we are aware of no reports from a developing country. We conducted a pilot study of the Incredible Years Teacher Training programme and a curriculum unit on social and emotional skills based on concepts and activities drawn from the Incredible Years Dina Dinosaur Classroom Curriculum to determine if this approach is appropriate for use with Jamaican pre-school teachers and children.

Methods  Five pre-schools in Kingston, Jamaica were randomly assigned to an intervention (3 pre-schools with 15 classrooms) or control (2 pre-schools with 12 classrooms) condition. Intervention involved seven whole-day teacher workshops using the Incredible Years Teacher Training programme supplemented by 14 child lessons in each class. The project was evaluated through structured observations of four categories of teacher behaviour and four observer ratings: two rating scales of child behaviour and two rating scales of classroom atmosphere.

Results  Significant intervention benefits were found to teachers' behaviour with increased positive behaviour [b = 7.9; 95% confidence interval (CI): 3.5, 12.3], reduced negative behaviour (b =−3.5; 95% CI: −6.6, −0.2) and increases in the extent to which teachers promoted children's social and emotional skills (b = 46.4; 95% CI: 11.0, 81.7). The number of teacher commands was not significantly reduced (b =−2.71; 95% CI: −6.01, 0.59). Significant intervention benefits were found to ratings of child behaviour with an increase in children's appropriate behaviour (b = 5.7, 95% CI: 1.0, 10.8) and in children's interest and enthusiasm (b = 7.2, 95% CI: 0.9, 13.5). Intervention also benefited classroom atmosphere with increases in opportunities provided for children to share and help each other (b = 1.3, 95% CI: 0.5, 2.1) and in teacher warmth (b = 1.3, 95% CI: 0.9, 1.8).

Conclusion  This is a promising approach for improving the emotional climate of Jamaican pre-school classrooms and for improving child behaviour and participation.