Winners named in national science competition for randomised trials

Currow National School, Killarney, Co. Kerry were awarded first place in the Schools Teaching Awareness of Randomised Trials (START) annual competition. Credit – Aengus McMahon.
May 23 2023 Posted: 12:00 IST

Three primary schools who used scientific methods to answer questions about well-being, education and fitness in the classroom have been awarded the START Trophy 2023 at a special event in University of Galway.


Organised by the Health Research Board-Trials Methodology Research Network (HRB-TMRN) at University of Galway, the Schools Teaching Awareness of Randomised Trials (START) annual competition encourages children throughout Ireland to learn more about healthcare decisions and how we can improve health and wellbeing by learning about randomised trials. Sometimes called clinical trials, randomised trials are a type of research study often used to find out if a new medicine or treatment works.   


The START competition is a fun, project-based approach to learning about randomised trials. It also helps meet key aspects of the current school curriculum in several subjects including maths, science, SPHE and ICT. The competition website provides all the tools needed to allow children and teachers create their own randomised clinical trial in the classroom. 


The three shortlisted primary schools and their trial questions were: 


  • Currow National School, Ranalough, Killarney, Co. Kerry

Running Debate- should you run for distance or time?


  • Scoil Mobhi, Glasnevin, Dublin 9 

Which method of learning produces better results in a test: educational videos or educational text? 


  • Corrandulla National School, Corrandulla, Galway

Do mindful opportunities increase concentration in the classroom?


Coming in at third place, Corrandulla National School from County Galway explored the imact of mindfulness on concentrating in the classroom. Techniques such as colouring, storytelling, breathing techniques, yoga and sensory play were tested, and the children’s emotions / feelings were recorded. This school concluded that the children felt happier after engaging in the mindfulness breaks, less likely to fidget misbehave or disrupt the class. The mindfulness intervention had positive emotional and academic outcomes for the children involved. 


Scoil Mobhi, Glasnevin, Dublin, were presented with second place for their trial ‘Which learning method gives better academic outcomes, educational videos or educational text?’. The students randomised their fellow classmates to the intervention or control arm of the study, using a fun spinner wheel. Using a standard test for both control and intervention groups, the students concluded that the video resource resulted the children getting better test scores. 


The overall START first place winners were Currow National School, Ranalough, Killarney, Co. Kerry. They addressed whether or not running for distance or time to improve fitness and concluded that there was no difference between these two groups, and that either method would be good to improve fitness.  


Commenting on the START competition, Professor Declan Devane, Scientific Director of the HRB-TMRN at University of Galway, said“We started this competition for two reasons. Firstly, we wanted to raise awareness of the importance of randomised trials with children. Secondly, we wanted to harness the creativity and imagination of children in the design, conduct, analysis and reporting of trials. The high standard and variety of applications we receive each year demonstrates that the START competition has indeed raised the awareness of randomised trials and capitalised on children’s innate ability to explain difficult concepts clearly and in a fun way.”


Dr Sandra Galvin National Programme Manager of the HRB – Trials Methodology Research Network, said: “The questions that the children come up with every year are amazing. They usually focus on an aspect of their own lives in the classroom, and they work together to create the trial, but also have a lot of fun. The curiosity and creativity of their bright young minds means they usually challenge our concepts and get us to think more creatively.”


The three shortlisted schools were selected by four judges:

  • Iseult Mangan, Former Primary School Principal Cloghans Hill NS (2017 START winner) and Teen Turn Mentor 
  • Aisling Murray, Teacher, St. Joseph’s National School in Kinvara and teacher of the 2018 START Competition winning class.
  • Professor Shaun Treweek, Professor of Health Services Research, University of Aberdeen, UK
  • Sarah Chapman, Knowledge Broker at Cochrane UK.


The competition is run by the Health Research Board-Trials Methodology Research Network (HRB-TMRN), which is a collaborative Network across five University partners - University of Galway, University College Cork, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin and the University of Limerick - to celebrate International Clinical Trials Day and the anniversary of the first clinical trial which was carried out in 1747 in the British Navy.


To learn more about START visit or follow on Twitter @STARTSchools and Facebook at 



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