Our Blog

We have partners in more than 30 countries – from Canada to China, Iceland to India. Like us, they’re all working to promote the mental health and emotional wellbeing of young children. Together we’ve got a wealth of experience and a variety of views.

Our Healthy Children blog is the place where we share new ideas and discuss what needs to be done to help young children to flourish. It’s a platform for partners, parents, teachers and children to talk about their experiences, and a chance for us all to learn from each other.

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      .title (string) = Your summer holiday project… knit a Zippy!
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For many years you have asked us to provide a Zippy toy and lots of you have been creative in making your own. However, our new corporate sponsor, Wesleyan, have created a Zippy knitting pattern for us. Now everyone can get crafty and create their own knitted Zippy! 

Knitting has been shown to have many positive mental health benefits, including reducing stress and providing a moment to ‘switch off’ and give the mind a break. Teaching children to knit is also a valuable and fun activity, developing children’s fine motor coordination skills and critical thinking. Read more about the benefits of knitting for adults and children via the links below:

knitom.com/therapeutic-knitting/

www.craftyarncouncil.com/classbenefits.html

Encourage colleagues, parents, siblings, grandparents and children to swap buckets and spades for knitting needles and wool over the summer holidays and knit a Zippy!

We look forward to receiving photos of Zippy knitting in progress and the finished product!


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Here’s something to fill those spare hours(!) over the summer… Download our new Zippy knitting pattern and make your very own Zippy!


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      .title (string) = Talking to children about terrorism
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The attack at the concert in Manchester and the attack in London has, understandably, caused a lot of fear and anxiety amongst children and parents. It’s important not to ignore this, but to be open and honest with children, giving them a chance to tell you what they and their friends are saying and feeling. If you’re scared yourself, it’s ok to admit that, but you need to stay calm and tell children that these attacks are very rare, so the risk to them is very small.

For very young children, under six years old, the priority is to make them feel safe, so they may need more hugs and reassurance than usual. If you need to be away from them, give them plenty of warning. Tell children that the police are working very hard to keep us all safe. For older children, you can help them to help themselves by practising ‘strong thoughts’ and putting aside a short time each day to address their fears.

Professor Atle Dyregrov, an expert on children’s trauma, has written ’10 tips for talking with children and young people about terror’.


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The attack at the concert in Manchester and the attack in London has, understandably, caused a lot of fear and anxiety amongst children and parents. 


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      .title (string) = Using Zippy’s Friends and Apple’s Friends to help with transition
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School transitions can be an unsettling time for both teachers and pupils and may bring up difficult feelings.

To help your new class or current class with the transition to a new year group and teacher, try these Zippy’s Friends and Apple’s Friends ideas at the end or beginning of term:

  • Use the teacher training presentation we provide to make next year’s teacher aware of the programme and how the work you have done with the class on Zippy’s Friends and Apple’s Friends can be followed through. This consistency and familiarity may be just what the children need if they struggle during the first few weeks. The new teacher can remind them of the Zippy Tips, Apple tips and Rules for Choosing a Good Solution.
  • Make a pipe cleaner Zippy or toy Apple for children to take with them into their new class next year so Zippy and Apple can join them on their journey and remind them of all they learnt, particularly about change.
  • Use the Zippy’s Friends & Apple’s Friends programmes during transition week. If you are teaching your new class at the end of term, start Zippy’s Friends or Apple’s Friends to get to know the class and create an open and supportive atmosphere. Or you could start at the beginning of term to build up positive relationships between children.
  • Repeat the Home Activity on change in Module 5 Session 1 of Zippy’s Friends and Apple’s Friends to help initiate conversations at home about how the children might be feeling about a new class.

A reminder that if you are moving year groups as a trained Zippy’s Friends and Apple’s Friends teacher,  you are trained to teach both programmes.

Zippy’s Friends is designed for 5-7 year olds and Apple’s Friends is designed for 7-9 year olds, so you can start one of the programmes in Years 1-4.

Contact us for more information on 020 8974 6004.

 

 

 


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School transitions can be an unsettling time for both teachers and pupils and may bring up difficult feelings. To help your new class or current class with the transition to a new year group and teacher, try these Zippy’s Friends and Apple’s Friends ideas at the end or beginning of term:


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Ever since Zippy’s Friends was first trialled over 17 years ago, teachers have asked, ‘What’s next?’  After many years and stages of development, Apple’s Friends has been launched as the follow-up programme to Zippy. However, children don’t have to have done Zippy to do Apple – it can be run as a programme by itself.

It’s now running in Brazil, China, England, Jordan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and Trinidad and Tobago, and will be running soon in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.  Feedback from teachers, children and parents has been as positive as that we receive for Zippy, as you can see from the quotes below. And when the Trimbos Institute in the Netherlands conducted a randomised control trail, they found that doing both programmes had more significant effects than just doing Zippy’s Friends.

In the UK, we’ve now developed training course for both trainers and teachers which cover both Zippy and Apple, while retaining single-programme training as required.

If you’d like to find out more, email: caroline.egar@partnershipforchildren.org.uk.

My personal THANKS for the program Apple Friend’s. Although I am already a 55 year old teacher, this program has taught me myself to search/look and find more different ways out of difficult situations. I have changed myself and my life has become better. - Teacher

"Apple’s Friends" helped my son a lot. Now he communicates much more openly and makes friends easily. The program taught him to adapt to life and other children in the classroom. He became more flexible and learned to solve or even to avoid conflicts. - Parent

I felt better when I learned that others sometimes feel like I do. - Apple's Friends pupil

Now I know that there are many ways to get out of bad situations.  I never knew there were so many names for emotions. - Apple's Friends pupil

Apple’s Friends is the new lesson which is my favourite class. Because it is very interesting and the most importantly, I have learned many ways to solve the problem. For example, there are a lot of troubles in my life, I don’t know how to face them. So I often get upset. In the lesson I learned the proper solution to cope with this kind of situation. After my mom knew I learned it in class, she was very glad. Now I can make friends easily, no matter the person is younger or older. I always see the positives of them. Even there is a conflict, I can give the priority to others. Thank you, Apple’s Friends! Thank you my teacher! - Apple's Friends pupil

 


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Zippy’s Friends is now extremely successful and well known in Lithuania, with some 35% of all six to seven year-olds taking part in the programme. But ten years ago, this wasn’t the case at all, and times were tough for our NGO, Vaiko Labui. Lithuania had just joined the EU and donors were either leaving, or hadn’t yet arrived, so it was really hard to raise funds.

Then an opportunity came up to present Zippy’s Friends at an annual meeting of the British Chamber of Commerce, Lithuania.

That evening was a great success, and a game-changer for Lithuanian Zippy’s Friends and its partners. Our long-lasting friendship with the BCC Lithuania started here, and in the audience was one of the owners of the retail chain IKI, which duly became the general sponsor of Zippy’s Friends in Lithuania. IKI has been supporting the programme ever since, and last year we held a conference “Zippy’s Friends – for the child, teacher and school” to mark the 10th anniversary of IKI sponsorship.

Our relationship with the BCC has continued since then, with their financing of our website development, and support for the translation of the Zippy’s Friends Special Needs Supplement. And this year they have provided funding for the publishing and printing of this Supplement.

We are very grateful to the BCC for its support and for all the opportunities they have created for us. And we are grateful not only for the material assistance, but also for their trust and confidence in us, for their overall support and belief that our activities are important.

Aurelija Okunauskiene

Director, Vaiko Labui

 

Note from PFC:

Chambers of Commerce, Rotary Clubs, International Women’s Groups and British Embassies all have pots of funding for local NGOs.

In addition, charitable trusts and foundations are a good source of funding. Some trusts that fund international work include:

The Peter Cundill Foundation

Medicor Foundation

The Herrod Foundation  


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Zippy’s Friends is now extremely successful and well known in Lithuania, with some 35% of all six to seven year-olds taking part in the programme. But ten years ago, this wasn’t the case at all, and times were tough for our NGO, Vaiko Labui.


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When our partners send us their annual reports, we need to have accurate statistics on school, teacher and children numbers. But the bit we enjoy reading most are the stories which tell us, more than numbers, what Zippy and Apple can do for children. Here are a few of the most recent success stories from around the world.

From Russia

Zippy in RussiaA teacher reported: “During the 3rd year we have been working on the Zippy’s Friends programme. There are no fights, insults are extremely rare, the children have a positive attitude. We got a new boy who came from another city. At first, he behaved defiantly, calling the other children names and provoking them. But our children did not react as he expected – instead, they said, ‘I would like you to play, not fight.’ The boy gradually calmed down and his anger melted away.”

 

From Jordan

A girl in grade 2 ate things (literally): she ate pencils, erasers, paper, and her classmates’ sandwiches – even though she had her own sandwich in her lunch box. One day she tried to eat her friend’s hair “because it's beautiful”.  She had problems with her school work, and the school had tried (since she was in grade 1) to help her and modify her behaviour, but they hadn't succeeded. The parents were stuck!

In the Zippy session about jealousy, she expressed strongly that she felt jealous of her little brother and sister, and of her friends and classmates. (The teacher described her facial expression as very strong!) The teacher and parents put a plan in place, and within two months there was a 180 degree change! Her bad behaviours stopped, and her school work improved.

 

From Slovakia

Zippy in SlovakiaA teacher in her 60s, who had lost her son several years previously, was very worried about teaching Module 5 on Change and Loss. During training, Nad’a agreed that she could get in touch closer to the time, and they could support her to deliver the sessions if necessary. However, she didn’t contact them, and when they met up again, the teacher explained she had had a wonderful experience teaching the module. It had allowed her to deal with what had happened better, and she found it very useful to open up and share her experiences with the children. Nad’a also commented that the teacher’s whole appearance and demeanour had changed – she looked ten years younger!

 


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A song or a rhyme can be a great way to start or end you Zippy or Apple class. Our Norwegian partners have created a brilliant Zippy’s Friends song complete with English translation

In China this class regularly use their Apple’s Friends song

{video file="uploads/video/Prof_Gao_Apples_Video.mp4"}

 

In the UK we provide the following to help classes start or end their Zippy session

{audio file="uploads/audio/Zippys_Friends_song.mp3"}

 

Zippy can help me

(to the tune of Waltzing Matilda)


Zippy can help me 

Zippy can help me

Zippy can help me decide what to do.

When I’m sad or I’m lonely,

Frightened or unhappy,

Zippy can help me decide what to do.

 

We’ve also heard of schools using Disney songs or creating their own rhymes and adaptations.

Let us know if you use music in your classes!


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While the main Zippy’s Friends folder has everything you need to teach the programme, don’t forget there are lots of great ideas for extending and enhancing activities in the Inclusion Supplement. These activities have been specially designed to ensure children in your class with special educational needs (SEN) can get the most out of the programme but can be beneficial for the whole class.

Quick catch ups

If you have your Zippy class at the start of the week it can be a good idea to run one of the activities from the Inclusion Supplement as a reminder later in the week.

Early finisher activities

When you are doing drawing or roleplay activities, have a look at the Inclusion Supplement to see if there are any activities that could be given to early-finishers to keep them engaged while the rest of the class finish their work.

Differentiated learning

If you have a very mixed ability group, you can use ideas in the Inclusion Supplement as activities for different groups.

TA time

If a pupil has additional support or 1-2-1 time with a Teaching Assistant make sure they are aware of Zippy’s Friends and the Golden Rules. It’s a great time to re-inforce the messages of the programme and try out some of the 1-2-1 activities.

Small group follow up

At William Davies School in Newham they run Zippy’s Friends in Year 1 and then repeat the programme again in Year 2 with a small group of pupils who could use extra support. This is a great way to reinforce the lessons of the programme and using the small group activities in the Inclusion Supplement means children won’t get bored by the repetition.

As part of the main programme

It’s always worth taking a few minutes to look over the Inclusion Supplement before each session. There are lots of extensions to the existing activities that can make your lesson more visual or dynamic and ensure all learners in your class can make the most of Zippy’s Friends.


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Apples Friends in actionLucy Stevens is the SENCO of Berry Hill Primary School in Gloucestershire. She has been running Apple’s Friends with a Year 3 class since November 2016.

 

Why did you start running Apple’s Friends?

We have a high proportion of children in school with significant emotional issues and we are very committed to improving and promoting children’s wellbeing.  We felt that Apple’s Friends would allow us to do this.

 

What do the children think of Apple's Friends?

I asked the children for their answer to this question and this is what they said:

‘It’s taught me ‘how’ to be kind to other people.’

‘It’s good because it’s about feelings and we’re able to discuss difficult situations and feel better about them.’

‘It’s about caring.’

‘It’s given me the skills to care more about each other.’

‘It’s about sharing and being polite.’

‘Good – it’s a chance to talk freely.’

‘I like to listen to people and their ideas.’

‘It helps us to get to know each other better and find solutions to problems.’

‘I like the characters – they’re just like me!’

 

What’s worked well- are there any activities that have been particularly popular?

When I asked, the children said they really enjoyed:

  • Role plays
  • Drama
  • The Feelings Tree
  • Speaking and listening activities
  • Reading, writing, acting and colouring

 

Have there been any challenges? How have you dealt with them?

To be honest I have been surprised how well it is has gone and there haven’t been any challenges.  The children have been very open and happy to discuss situations which are difficult.Apples Friends in action

 

What impact do you think the programme has had?

Children have been more open in discussing their feelings.  It has allowed them to explore difficult situations.  I feel the children are much more aware of understanding and tuning into other people’s feelings and recognising it’s more than just what people say to one another, it’s also about body language and a person’s demeanour. 

Has your school run Zippy’s Friends?

No we hadn’t before but we are planning to now.

Would you recommend Apple’s Friends to others?

Yes, most definitely!

 

 


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Lucy Stevens is the SENCO of Berry Hill Primary School in Gloucestershire. She has been running Apple’s Friends with a Year 3 class since November 2016. Read our interview with her.


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Bullying is not only horrible to experience, but research shows it can have long-term detrimental effects on mental health. Both Zippy’s Friends and Apple’s Friends focus on bullying and try not only to reduce bullying in the classroom but also to give children coping skills to support them now and in the future.

What is bullying?

Children sometimes find it hard to distinguish bullying from occasional teasing and can start to label any negative comment, or even parental discipline as “bullying”

In our programmes we give the following definition.

“Bullying involves repeated nastiness to somebody, where a person or group deliberately targets someone with the intention of hurting them or making them feel bad. The abuse can be physical or emotional, and may involve name-calling or spreading nasty stories about somebody. If the abuse is done online, or via social media or phones it’s called cyber bullying”

If you are looking for more information on the difference between “rude”, “mean” and “bullying” this article by author Signe Whitson has some useful  pointers.

Preventing bullying

The first step for schools should always be to prevent bullying. Zippy’s Friends and Apple’s Friends support this approach through encouraging kindness and empathy and discussing with children from a young age what bullying is. The rules about bullying in both programmes remind students not to bully and to ask for help if they experience bullying.

“Nobody has the right to bully other people”

“If we are bullied, we can ask for help from someone we trust”

Evaluations of Zippy’s Friends have found it actually reduces bullying compared to schools without the programme. In Norway, control schools (who didn’t run Zippy’s Friends) saw a small reduction in bullying over the course of the year. For schools that had run the programme the reduction was six times as high.    

Coping with bullying

The coping skills taught in Zippy’s Friends and Apple’s Friends can also reduce the impact of bullying if it does occur. The long-term effect of bullying can be mitigated by how a child learns to cope with the situation.

There are two main ways to cope with any situation. One involves trying to change the situation.  In this case, it may involve avoiding or stopping being bullied. Zippy’s Friends and Apple’s Friends with their focus on asking for help and communicating give tools to support this.

The second approach involves thinking differently about what happened and learning to deal with the emotional effects of the experience. Coping with situations by feeling differently about them can be very successful- for example, seeing the problem is in the bully or the school environment rather than themselves or learning to reduce feelings of anxiety rather than being consumed by them.    

Both types of coping mechanisms are promoted and practised in Zippy’s Friends and Apple’s Friends giving children a wide repertoire of strategies to draw on both in class and in the years to come. Although Module 4 focusses on bullying, Modules 5 and 6 continue to promote and develop these useful coping strategies. 

Helping the bullies

Finally it’s always worth remembering that bullies themselves are often unhappy and insecure and need better coping skills too. Universal programmes such as Zippy’s Friends and Apple’s Friends aim to give all children the tools they need.


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Involving families in Zippy’s Friends and Apple’s Friends is a great way to help children to use their new skills outside the classroom. 

 

Run a meeting for parents

Before you start running Zippy’s Friends with your class, host a meeting for parents to let them know about the programme.

We’ve put together this template for a meeting which includes the background the programme, how parents can help and the chance for them to try out one of the activities.

Download the PowerPoint here.

 

English Parents' Guide to Zippy's Friends

Parents’ guides

Each set of resources for Zippy’s Friends includes 30 parent’s guides. The guide is also available to download in 23 languages.

The guide has been redesigned in recent years and is now more compact and accessible. You can order additional copies of the parents’ guide using our order form.

 

Home Activities

Zippy’s Friends and Apple’s Friends now include Home Activities for every module.

These sheets are sent home at the end of each module and let children share what they’ve been learning with an adult at home.

“The children loved completing them, especially the part where their parent had to do a bit on the sheet too!”

Parents who fed back in the activities agreed they were enjoyable for both parent and child. They also helped parents to understand what their child was learning in Zippy’s Friends and to bond with their child.

The Home Activities come as standard in the new Zippy’s Friends teacher’s folder and are included in every Apple pack. To order resources please visit www.partnershipforchildren.org.uk/teachers/zippy-s-friends-teachers/order-resources-for-uk-schools.

 

Online resources

We have also redeveloped the free parents’ resources that are available on our website. These resilience-building resources follow the themes of Zippy and Apple’s friends but are available for all parents, whether their child has done the programme or not. Please do share them with families or colleagues you think would find them useful.

 

Feedback from parents who have used the resources:

“While she is small & still learning how all her feelings 'feel' I think these tools will be really useful in helping her to communicate with me without feeling pressure to explain herself.”

“I often notice that my children can sometimes find it difficult to 'put into words' what they are thinking or feeling.  They both found it incredibly easy & enjoyable to participate in the activity & did so with great enthusiasm.”

“There is nothing about this activity that they didn't enjoy & nothing that didn't work. As a parent I found it an incredibly helpful tool in learning more about what the children are thinking & feeling & would certainly recommend it to fellow mums.”

 

 


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Involving families in Zippy’s Friends and Apple’s Friends is a great way to help children to use their new skills outside the classroom.


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The first modules of Zippy’s Friends and Apple’s Friends focus on feelings. For young children, learning about feelings is a key skill that will help them to manage their emotions and ask for help when needed.

 

Why is it important to identify feelings?

As children grow up they move from non-verbal ways to express their emotions (largely crying!) to learning to speak and label feelings. However, it isn’t necessary to articulate a feeling to experience it. We don’t have to say “I feel sad” to feel sad. Often we react automatically without labelling the feeling- by crying, looking sad or moving more slowly. 

Young children aren’t necessarily used to naming feelings and expressing them. They may have difficulty identifying what feeling they are feeling and why. But being able to communicate feelings to others can be an essential first step to identifying useful coping strategies. If children can’t understand and articulate their feelings they might not be able to ask for and receive help.

Behaviour isn’t always a good indication of how a child is feeling. For example, a child who is feeling anxious about joining a new class may hide that by being aggressive. Identifying the underlying feelings is an important first step in learning how to cope better.

 

Feelings and PSHE

The PSHE Association recommend that KS1 children have the opportunity to learn “about good and not so good feelings, a vocabulary to describe their feelings to others and simple strategies for managing feelings” They also recommend a PSHE curriculum includes opportunities for children “to communicate their feelings to others, to recognise how others show feelings and how to respond”

The American Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) includes Self-awareness (including the ability to accurately recognize one’s emotions) and Self-management (the ability to regulate one’s emotions) as two of its five core competencies for Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). Their research shows that children who receive quality SEL programmes benefit from:

  • better academic performance
  • improved attitudes and behaviours
  • fewer negative behaviours
  • reduced emotional distress

 

Zippy’s Friends and feelings

Feelings

Module one of Zippy’s Friends focuses on four key emotions: sad, angry, nervous and jealous. Each session also looks at coping strategies to feel better.  Understanding that we are experiencing these feelings can help us find ways to cope with the situation.

Of the four emotions covered in the first module, jealousy can be trickiest for children to grasp. Although most children will have experienced it, it can’t be summed up with a facial expression like happy, sad or angry. Teachers can find it helpful to ask parents to discuss feeling jealous with their child before they start Session Three. Using lots of different examples of situations where someone could feel jealous can also help.

Like all feelings, jealousy is a spontaneous reaction which we have whether we want to or not. It’s important to emphasise that it’s normal and common. There is no problem with feeling jealous (or angry or sad) - it is what you do when you feel that way that counts.

Zippy’s Friends not only helps children to recognise their feelings. It also helps them to find coping strategies that work for them.

 


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Why is it important to identify feelings?


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There are lots of things you can do to set the tone before your first Zippy class. Many schools add an extra session (session 0) to introduce the characters, the rules and show that Zippy classes will be different from other lessons.

Activities could include:

  • Make a Zippy name badge. Use the Zippy’s Friends logo or sticker template on the DVD and create cards the children can wear during the sessions. Children add their names and decorate the badges.
  • Make a Zippy from pipe cleaners. Using 4 pipe-cleaners and some googly eyes, children can make their own Zippy’s.  They can put a name tag on one of the legs to identify theirs.  In future, if children want to talk to you on their own or discuss a problem, they can put their own model Zippy on your desk and know that you will then make time to see them.
  • Introduce and discuss the rules. Ask the children to draw pictures of the different rules. These can be used in future lessons when the rules are repeated.
  • Introduce the characters. Use the colouring sheets from the DVD or get the children to make puppets using the character posters and straws or lollipop sticks. The pictures could be used to decorate the Zippy’s Friends noticeboard in the classroom. The puppets can be used to engage children in the stories more.
  • Learn a Zippy’s Friends song. An example is included on the DVD but you could also make up your own using any popular tune. Actions are also really popular.
  • Real-life pet stick insects! Some schools have pet stick insects in their classroom over the year (but be warned they breed quickly!) Session 0 could be a great way of introducing the pets and setting up the classes.

Do you have any other ideas to introduce Zippy’s Friends? Please contact us to let us know.


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Zippy’s Friends launched in France this year, with seven schools taking part in the programme. Last month our CEO Wendy Tabuteau and Programme Director Caroline Egar went to visit to find out how the programme has been running.

Teachers were very positive about the experience and the impact it has had on their children:

“This programme seems to be a special time for children in the week where they show real skills and a real pleasure to be listened to by others.”

“Even a boy who turned his back on the circle to start with now contributes in the sessions.”

“I have a difficult class where there are a lot of children with problems. But I was surprised at how quickly they picked up the programme. They love the Mystery Box, and all want to join in.”

They also praised the design of the programme, showing once again how Zippy’s Friends works across different cultures.

“In France we don’t like materials that are too prescriptive. But I found the lesson plans very helpful, and they gave me the freedom to bring in my own ideas too.”

Each country also brings its different culture to the celebration at the end of the programme. In France the children were lucky enough to have this wonderful Tarte aux Pommes to celebrate all of their hard work in Zippy’s Friends.

Our partner in France is Fédération Départementale des Foyers Ruraux de Charente Maritime, a people’s education association that advocates for the development of rural areas. More details of their organisation, and how they are implementing Zippy’s Friends, can be found on page 18 of our Around the World booklet.


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Zippy’s Friends launched in France this year, with seven schools taking part in the programme. Last month our CEO Wendy Tabuteau and Programme Director Caroline Egar went to visit to find out how the programme has been running.


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We re-launched our resilience-building activities for children this week and one family got a sneak peek.

Kate and her son Junior tested out some of the resources for us. Kate says “We really enjoyed working through the sheets.”

Junior’s favourite activity was drawing people feeling different emotions. You can see his fantastic illustrations below.

Some activities were trickier, like thinking of an emotion for every letter of the alphabet. But, Kate says, Junior “enjoyed it and we had a good conversation around the different emotions we thought of.”

“All in all”, says Kate “it was a great exercise. It's reassuring to see children's mental health being looked at, as there is so much focus on physical health, this brings balance to the table.” We couldn’t agree more which is why Partnership for Children works with schools and families to promote good mental health and improve children’s coping and social skills.

Thanks so much to Kate and Junior for test-driving our resources! You can find all of the activities on feelings, and a range of other topics, here.

If you try them out, we’d love to know what you think. Email any feedback to info@partnershipforchildren.org.uk

We are raising money through our Radio 4 Appeal to make sure we can work with even more parents and families to support their children’s mental health. Listen live on 12th June or find out more here.

 


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We re-launched our resilience-building activities for children this week and one family got a sneak peek.


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Parents have told us they really notice a difference in their children when they take part in Zippy’s Friends and Apple’s Friends. These stories from our international partners show what a positive impact our programmes can have for families:

“After each session, my son would come home really excited, talking about the programme. One day, he told me he had learned we need to do something to calm down – that is the first step. The second step is understanding the problem, then, thinking of solutions and, finally, choosing the best one. He has mentioned these four different steps several times. He can now accept rules more easily and can better express his feelings. Zippy’s Friends was very important and extremely valuable for my son’s life. I hope it can keep running in more and more schools, because it has really helped my son and many other children.” - Parent, Brazil

“Apple Friend’s has helped my son a lot. Now he much more openly communicates and makes friends easily. He started to go to school willingly. The program taught him to adapt to life and other children in the classroom. Now it is easier for him to accept and understand the diversity of other children. He became more flexible and learned to solve or even to avoid conflicts.” - Parent, Lithuania                 

“Zippy's Friends is so good a curriculum. It taught my son how to cope with difficulties and deal with his emotions. What he has learned from Zippy's Friends also has affected us. One night, a friend of my husband visited us. He was very depressed about something and had drunk a lot. The next day, my son said to him: "Uncle, don't drink next time. If you feel sad, you can listen to music, walk in the park, or discuss with your friends." We are so surprised, because my husband and I never taught him those strategies. On asking the kindergarten teacher of my son, I knew I should attribute that to Zippy's Friends.” - Mother, Shanghai

We want to reach even more children and their families and we’re delighted that on Sunday 12th June Radio 4’s Charity Appeal will be in aid of Partnership for Children. We’ll be raising money to improve the support we can give parents and families to improve children’s mental health, for life.

To find out more about our Radio 4 Charity Appeal click here

 


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Marcus Brigstocke at Broadcasting HouseLast Wednesday, with the rain streaming down, we headed off to BBC Broadcasting House to meet Marcus Brigstocke, to record our BBC Radio 4 Appeal which will be broadcast in June.

Marcus is an actor and comedian, well known to BBC Radio 4 listeners, teenagers (who fondly remember his CBBC show ‘Sorry I’ve Got No Head’) and comedy fans everywhere.  We had approached him to record an appeal on behalf of Partnership for Children because we knew he had suffered from, and talked about, his own childhood mental health issues. We felt he would understand the importance of the work we are doing with children, their teachers and parents — and we were not disappointed.

As soon as Marcus arrived at Broadcasting House, we were whisked up to a tiny recording studio and he was put to work.  We had written our script according to the BBC’s guidelines — exactly 420 words, or two minutes and 50 seconds at normal reading pace. We had a short time slot, with the next celebrity – a very well-known singer -  hot on our heels.  Thank goodness Marcus is used to working on the radio, as there was no time for nerves or mistakes.  Once he had finished, he recorded a one-minute ‘Audioboom’ for us.  This was his chance to explain why he was supporting our work.  We all listened intently as he told us about his experiences of coping with mental health issues as a young child. 

Within 30 minutes we were back downstairs and out of the building.  We took some photos outside Broadcasting House before the heavens opened again and we all ran for the tube, whilst continuing our wide-ranging conversation on school drop-offs, moving schools, parenting, mental health and football (he’s not a fan but graciously agreed to sign my son’s Chelsea autograph book).

Two days later, I got a call from a TV production team to say that a mystery celebrity had nominated Partnership for Children to receive a donation from a show they are filming.  I wonder who it could be?  To be continued…


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Last Wednesday, with the rain streaming down, we headed off to BBC Broadcasting House to meet Marcus Brigstocke, to record our BBC Radio 4 Appeal which will be broadcast in June.


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Schools and teachers are usually judged on their children’s academic achievements.  But is that sensible?  Director Chris Bale looks at an important new report which suggests not.

Here at Partnership for Children we are working with partners in 31 countries.  Despite the diversity of their cultural and economic situations, many make the same complaint.  Their governments, they say, are so focussed on schools’ academic results that programmes which are concerned with children’s mental health and emotional wellbeing get ignored; there is just no room for them in the curriculum.

A new report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) should make those governments think again.  It suggests that non-cognitive skills – or what are often called life skills – are a more accurate guide than cognitive skills to how successful a person will be in life.

The OECD was founded 55 years ago and has 34 member countries, from North and South America, Europe and Asia Pacific.  It is dedicated to global development and improving the economic and social wellbeing of people around the world.  What makes its report so interesting is that it takes a long term view, looking not at the immediate impact of, say, an emotional wellbeing programme which was taught last year but seeing whether a programme has made a difference 10, 20 or 30 years later.

The report reviews a range of scientific literature and is not light reading, but its three key findings are clear.

Firstly, it says that assessments of non-cognitive skills are at least as good as cognitive tests for predicting how a child will fare as an adult – and sometimes even better.  It looks at employers’ surveys in the US and UK and finds that the skills most lacking in 16-24 year olds are not numeracy and literacy but communication, teamwork and dealing with people.

It says: ‘The success of schools is measured by students’ exam scores.  This mindset is a consequence of a very limited conceptualisation of human capabilities which assumes that achievement tests capture the important life skills.  It misses important dimensions of human flourishing.’

Secondly, the report highlights the importance of starting to teach life skills from a young age, even pre-school.  It does not suggest that programmes for adolescents are a waste of time, but does note that ‘based on the available evidence, early childhood programmes tend to have higher rates of return than adolescent programmes.’

It goes on: ‘There is substantial evidence that high-quality early childhood programmes have lasting and beneficial effects on non-cognitive skills.  Many early programmes improve later-life outcomes, even though they do not improve IQ.’

The report’s third key finding focuses on families, and says that traditional ways of assessing disadvantage in terms of family income are inadequate.   Rather, it says, lack of parental guidance and encouragement is the most damaging condition for child development. 

‘Quality parenting – stimulation, attachment, encouragement and support – is the true measure of child advantage, and not the traditional measures of poverty commonly used in policy discussions.’

In essence, the report says that policymakers are currently measuring the wrong things.  Education systems cannot be successful unless they teach non-cognitive skills, especially to young children, and good parenting is even more important than good teaching.  The authors say: ‘This evidence should cause policymakers to think twice about relying on achievement tests to evaluate the effectiveness of educational systems.’ 

These are not just the views of a wacky commentator or the result of some lightweight study by a third-rate organisation.  The OECD is a highly respected agency and its report is based on a cool, long-term assessment of the facts.  As such, it needs to be taken seriously, even if its findings do challenge current practice.  After all, if schools are not helping children to develop the skills they will need to live flourishing lives, they are not doing their job.

So, policymakers, time for a re-think?

Read the OECD report here.


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      .content (string) = Growing up in one of the world’s richest countries is easy, right?  Wrong!  Randi Talseth, head of Voksne for Barn (Adults for Children), is concerned for Norway’s forgotten children.

Norway is one of the world’s richest countries. Only Switzerland is above us for cost of living. We regularly top lists for the highest standard of living and best quality of life. We are very fortunate. Yet out of our 1.2 million children, 75,000 are living under the poverty line (as defined by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development). The number has actually increased during the last few years, and if the government goes ahead with planned cuts to child benefits the total number of children in poverty could jump by almost 50% to 110,000.

It is completely unacceptable that in a rich country like Norway we still have children who are socially excluded because of the economy. It’s a disgrace.

In many ways, there is more stigma to being poor in a country where the majority are well off. Norway is a very costly society, and children from poorer homes tell us that they feel excluded. This is particularly true for children from immigrant families. Poverty means that they cannot participate fully in society because they lack money to pay for things – sports equipment, having a birthday party, buying toys or simply inviting their friends home. They feel socially excluded and ashamed.

Such feelings can be the starting point for leaving school early and a host of problems in adolescence and adult life. Again, this is particularly true for boys from immigrant families (although girls from these families tend to remain at school, recognizing that they have an educational opportunity in Norway which might be denied them in another country). Two thirds of Norwegian children who are in child protection and exposed to violence are from migrant families.

But poverty is not simply a matter of money and migration. Children also need to grow up in homes which are rich in love and understanding. Many Norwegian children (at least 130,000) live with parents who have severe substance abuse problems and/or mental illness. Even if these parents receive financial benefits for their children, many of them are not able to give priority to the children’s needs.

This highlights an issue which may also be true in other countries. The government wants parents to work and many of our benefits are linked to an adult’s relation to work. That may be understandable, but children have their own needs which should be assessed on their own merit. Many child benefit payments given to parents don’t benefit a child.

Voksne for Barn is an NGO which promotes the mental health of children and adolescents, and we work closely with many who feel excluded from Norway’s prosperity. We run various school programmes, including Zippy’s Friends, and organize networks to bring young people from disadvantaged backgrounds together, to help them understand that their situation is not their fault. They are often surprised to see that there are so many others living in the same conditions.

Later this month we will hold a conference about helping children and young people who are growing up in highly stressed households. The causes of stress are many and varied – parental mental illness and alcohol or drug abuse are obvious, but we also have to deal with families where a parent is addicted to online gaming or where the disability of one child disadvantages his or her siblings. A particularly sad challenge is to help children whose brother or sister is dying, when nobody has the time to care for them because everyone is focused on the child who is dying.

Of course, for many children and young people, growing up in Norway is a great experience. By international standards, they enjoy high quality education and health care and have access to a largely unspoiled natural environment.

But wealth should not blind us to the desperate struggles which some Norwegian children face. Rather, it makes us even more determined to help.
      .summary (string) = Growing up in one of the world’s richest countries is easy, right? Wrong! Randi Talseth, head of Voksne for Barn (Adults for Children), is concerned for Norway’s forgotten children.
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      .title (string) = Don't ask why
      .content (string) = Don't ask whyJeppe Kristen Toft in Denmark has learned that asking a young child ‘Why?’ she or he did something can be intimidating for the child and rarely elicits useful information for the adult. Better, he says, to try another approach.

As a former primary school teacher and father of a girl, 4, and two boys, 7 and 10, I have had my share of children doing incomprehensible things. I still enjoy the moments when a child is able to surprise me by doing or saying something I didn’t expect. In such situations, my instinct is to talk about what has been said or done.

Not surprisingly, though, I have found that my children are not particularly interested in having every little thing they say or do examined and questioned. Over the years I have learned that there are investigatory ways to talk to children that will get me somewhere and ways that will get me nowhere.

When I was 15 years old I put glue on a boy’s chair in his class room. The boy was popular and for all I remember a good kid. I was also a good kid. Still, I put glue on his chair. I really didn’t know him too well as he was not in my class, so the obvious question that comes to mind is ‘Why?’

The school principal asked me that question (over and over again) when I turned myself in. I remember sitting on a chair in his office trying to come up with an honest and satisfying answer, but I couldn’t.

Now, more than 25 years later, I can still recall the moment. I wasn’t feeling uncomfortable as the deed wasn’t too bad and I wasn’t threatened or intimidated by the principal. I just couldn’t answer his simple question ‘Why?’ That bothered and surprised me. I kept repeating the truth, ‘I don’t know.’ I honestly didn’t know why I’d done it. I just had.

The principal was so frustrated. When I became a teacher, I often found myself in situations where I had to deal with similar issues – children doing incomprehensible things or getting into arguments or fights for no sensible reason. I would ask ‘Why?’, and when a child shrugged and replied ‘I don’t know’ I saw myself back in the principal’s office and accepted the answer. Actually, answering ‘I don’t know’ to the supposedly simple question ‘Why?’ is often an excellent and truthful answer.

‘Why?’ demonstrates superiority and a right to demand answers, and is most often interpreted as an accusation, a critical question with the intention to blame someone for something. When a child is met with a towering adult asking ‘Why’, a natural reaction is self defense or quick and basic reasoning in order to get out of the situation. Often, the child’s answer will not change things, it will not enable the adult to understand, and it will not help the child to make wiser decisions in future.

Take a typical adult question: ‘Why didn’t you shut down the computer properly yesterday?’ The question’s intention might come from curiosity but how does the child hear it? There is an accusatory tone, an implication of blame. You want to help the child to understand how to shut down the computer properly or to realize the importance of shutting down a computer properly, but what natural next questions can you ask to lead the conversation down that path if the child instantly feels blamed for doing something wrong? ‘What happened when you finished with the computer yesterday?’ is a better way of opening the conversation. The child is not likely to respond in self defense and, no matter how the child replies, there are paths of questioning which will let you get your message across.

Asking a child why it did or didn’t do something can be bad enough, but it can get even worse when you start asking ‘Why’ in relation to something that goes on inside. Asking ‘Why’ in relation to the child’s inner thought processes or feelings will most likely get you nowhere. The (existential) question ‘Why are you feeling sad?’ is almost impossible to answer – for anyone. Far better to ask ‘What is causing you to feel sad?’ or ‘Can you tell me more about how you feel?’

It takes time to change from a questioning technique that is based on superiority to one which is respectful and more likely to develop a child’s thoughts, but you can celebrate a little victory every time you succeed in keeping the ‘Why’ in your head and let something more constructive come out of your mouth.

Good luck!
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In many countries, a new academic year is beginning and millions of children are going to school for the first time.  Jane Tingle reflects on the challenges that they – and their parents and teachers – will face.

This week will see a frenzy of lunchbox-buying and label-writing as a new cohort of children get ready to start primary school. As a parent it’s a strange time; you feel pride at seeing your child toddle off in their oversize uniform, trailing their bag behind them. But they also suddenly seem very small and vulnerable and you can’t help but worry about how they’re coping when the classroom doors swing shut behind them. You also realise that, although you want them to learn to read and write, to add up and multiply, most of all you just want them to make friends and be happy.

Starting school can be a difficult time for some children. It’s easy to assume that only children from ‘difficult’ backgrounds or with Special Needs or language barriers will struggle but in truth such a momentous change can affect all children. Some are away from parents or carers for the first time, others struggle with new rules and routines and even those used to a nursery environment find it hard to cope with the longer hours and decrease in free play. Add to all that the expectation to actually sit still, listen and learn something and it can make for an overwhelming first term or two.

My own son had no qualms about starting school but he was also the youngest in his year and found it hard to settle down, concentrate and get along with his classmates. Many of his peers, especially boys, were the same; aged just four or barely five years old, they were still struggling with social and communication skills and they fought, teased and fell out endlessly during their attempts to play. For much of the Reception year the playground was a tense place. In the mornings there would be children clinging to their mum’s legs and crying and in the afternoon an exodus of tired and guilty little faces, told off yet again for not listening or for pushing their friends. I salute any teacher trying to teach a class of thirty tiny children, all with different needs and circumstances, all trying to work out how to behave and learn.    

I heard about Zippy’s Friends through my work and was struck by how helpful it would have been in my son’s classroom. I’d spent years at playgroups and parties, telling him how to share, how to listen and how to be kind but the new school environment seemed to engulf him – and many others too. Zippy’s Friends, with its structured weekly sessions focusing on coping, communication and social skills, would have given them all the time to think about and talk through how they felt about school and their new relationships – as well as any other issues in their lives. It would have given them the skills to discuss with each other what they did and didn’t like and so reduce the fighting and tears. It would have encouraged the shy, quieter children, still a bit scared of the whole school experience, to talk a little about how they were feeling – and the livelier children to stop for a moment and listen to others. And these would be skills they could carry with them throughout their time at school, when the pressures of exams or relationships or social media became intense.

Although my son’s primary school didn’t use Zippy’s Friends, he was fortunate to have supportive and resourceful teachers who took time to help him and his classmates to settle down and consider others. He’s happy and settled now, with lots of friends; I think he might even be learning something! But I know of other children who were not so lucky and who found the first few terms, or even years, of school stressful and upsetting and for them, a programme such as Zippy’s Friends could have proved invaluable. We can only hope that just as schools prioritise healthy eating and exercise for physical health, they will also take the time to consider mental health, through schemes such as Zippy’s Friends, to make the transition to school life just that little bit easier.


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Partnership for Children works with partners in 29 countries and so we know only too well that approaches to education and mental health can vary hugely from one country to the next.  But national differences are perhaps most marked with children who have Special Educational Needs (SEN).

For a start, how many children have SEN?  Estimates vary enormously.  A 2011 report for Ireland’s National Council for Special Education looked at prevalence rates worldwide, and found that estimates range from less than one per cent in some countries to more than 20 per cent in others.  Even within Europe the researchers found wide discrepancies – from 15 per cent in Iceland and 17.8 per cent in Finland down to 1.5 per cent in Italy and just 0.9 per cent in Greece.

Whatever the precise figure, we are talking about big numbers.  In 2012 the European Commission estimated that across the continent there were some 15 million children with SEN. 

The Irish report noted: ‘Internationally, estimates for the number of children with special educational needs have increased dramatically in recent decades.  The policy trend towards inclusive education has resulted in broadening the definition of SEN, greatly affecting prevalence estimates.’  As the move towards inclusive education continues worldwide, the prevalence of children with SEN is likely to grow further.

That poses a particular challenge for us because children with SEN are up to six times more likely to develop a mental health disorder than children without SEN.  What’s more, services and resources to help these pupils are often inadequate.

In the UK, for example, there are reports of long waiting lists for treatment and confusion about Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) for pupils with SEN.   Very few practitioners are trained specialists in both CAMHS and SEN.  A survey of special schools noted that ‘schools kept reporting that addressing mental health and emotional wellbeing was one of their most pressing challenges.’ 

Special schools in other countries also tell us about inadequate services – from a lack of resources to promote mental health to a shortage of psychiatrists to treat mental illness.  The mental health needs of young people with SEN are too often neglected, especially in low-income and middle-income countries.

That is why we have adapted the Zippy’s Friends programme so that pupils with special needs can be included.  A new inclusion supplement contains extra activities to help children with SEN who are studying in mainstream schools, and a more thorough adaptation has been produced for those with severe and complex difficulties who study in special schools. 

This work has been developed in England but the inclusion supplement has been given to all our global partners and is already being used in schools in Brazil, the Netherlands and Trinidad.  The adaptation for special schools is about to be independently evaluated before being made available internationally.  Feedback has so far been very positive.  One teacher said, ‘This is exactly what our pupils need, something which gives young people with SEN life skills.’

But even the best resources will not be enough on their own.  Governments can lead the way by setting standards, and there has recently been an encouraging move in the UK. 

The Code of Practice for Special Educational Needs, which tells local authorities and schools what they need to do for children and young people with SEN, has been rewritten.  From September it will no longer be enough for schools to exclude a child on the grounds of poor behaviour.  Rather, schools must consider the child’s social, mental and emotional health – in other words, the reasons behind the poor behaviour.  This may seem like an exercise in semantics, but the change has been warmly welcomed by many in the SEN field because it focuses attention on underlying issues and the fact that a child with behavioural problems may need help with either treatment of mental illness or promotion of mental health – or both.

Classroom resources and government policies – with so many millions of children and young people identified as having SEN, we need action on all fronts.

 


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Caroline Lifford, who manages our work for children and young people with Special Educational Needs (SEN), argues that these are the pupils most in need of mental health promotion.  But what is the most effective way to help them? 


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      .title (string) = School mental health matters more than ever
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The recent tragic event at a Leeds secondary school led to news and media discussions about child and adolescent mental health. The most recent research we have in England, in terms of prevalence, was published ten years ago by the Department of Health, and suggested that as many as three children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health disorder. It is unlikely that those numbers have decreased since. On the contrary, they are likely to have increased in an economic downturn that has increased pressures on families. Not only that, pressures on children and young people, particularly the more vulnerable ones, continue in terms of peer, social and media influences. UNICEF's child well-being reports have demonstrated that children are less happy in some of the world's richest countries.


Children and young people in England are now expected to spend longer and longer periods in educational settings. This is the result of longer school days and recent legislation which makes education compulsory from age 4 to age 18. In addition there are significant numbers of infants and small children in early years' settings. There is also widespread variation in school provision, from academies to free schools and beyond. This is quite a radical shift, started by the previous government and developed much further by the current coalition government, of seeing children and young people spending longer and longer in a variety of school settings and less time in the family setting. This is not necessarily a bad idea, and clearly there are huge benefits for many children and young people, but I do not feel the impact of this in psychological and developmental terms has been thoroughly thought through. The important and significant role of the immediate family and caregivers should not be overlooked or lost.

Good attachment figures are crucial for normal development. These primary attachment figures are crucial to helping children to develop their own 'attachment quality'. Secure attachment predicts improved lifetime relationships not only for those individuals but for the next generation when they become parents themselves. Both primary and secondary attachment figures are necessary for optimum psychological development, with secondary figures such as other significant family members, friends, and school staff such as teachers, teaching assistants and support staff.

With more and more children and young people now spending longer periods of time away from home and in education settings, surely there is now a greater role and responsibility for schools to look for opportunities for mental health promotion.

To some extent this has been in seen in the past with school programmes such as SEAL (Social & Emotional Aspects of Learning) and TaMHS (Targeted Mental Health in Schools). However, with the continued de-centralization of education policy we have probably seen the last of universal schools strategies. Individual schools are now not only managing their own budgets but individually interpreting their roles in terms of pastoral care and mental health promotion.

Moreover, teacher training at my University no longer includes study of children's development, due to the huge national curriculum agenda and requirements for its delivery by teachers. So unless teachers have an interest in attachment or child and adolescent mental health, how are they expected to understand what is being communicated through children's behaviour in the classroom or know what to do?

All this continues with the accompanying paring back of CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) throughout the country, with very patchy and inconsistent provision in some areas. Significant numbers of children, young people and families now have either no access or only very limited access to CAMHS, and this will undoubtedly increase pressure on universal and primary care services in both education and health.

With half of lifetime mental health problems (excluding dementia) beginning to emerge by age 14 and three-quarters by the mid-20s, surely we owe it to children and young people to remain vigilant and undertake preventative work and mental health promotion within schools and other educational settings. Schools are in a unique position given the length of time children now spend in them. Within the university where I work we have mental health advisors as part of student support services. They are very busy and their service is very much in demand, so much so that more staff have recently been appointed. So why are we not offering similar help to children and young people in schools?

Following a suicide cluster of young people in South Wales in 2008, counsellors for children and young people were appointed to every school in Wales. Perhaps some similar ideas and action may now emerge in England following the events in Leeds.


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The recent stabbing of a teacher in the northern English city of Leeds and the arrest of a 15-year-old student leads Maddie Burton, Senior Lecturer in Child and Adolescent Mental Health at the University of Worcester, to reflect on the prevalence of mental health disorders in schools and the need for more services.


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      .title (string) = A million reasons to celebrate
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When a class of children joined Zippy’s Friends at a school in São Paulo last month, they took our total global enrolment past one million.

The school is in Paraisópolis, a difficult area with high rates of crime and drug trafficking.  Tania Paris, who manages Amigos do Zippy in Brazil, describes the school as ‘an island which gives children opportunities for life.’ 




The class and their teacher, Regina, posed for a happy photograph outside the school, and back in our small office in southwest London we also celebrated, with champagne, balloons and a very chocolaty cake. 

Partnership for Children celebratingBut what were we really celebrating?

In our first year back in 2002, Zippy’s Friends ran in a few schools and kindergartens in two countries – Denmark and Lithuania.  We hoped it would expand to help more children in more countries, but we never dreamed that it would grow as quickly as it has and become recognised as one of the world’s most successful mental health programmes for children.

Today, Zippy’s Friends helps 200,000 children a year across 29 countries.  It has taken us 12 years to help our first million, but at this rate we will be able to help another million within the next five years. 

But one million is just a number.  A very big number, certainly, but it merely shows how many children we have enrolled.  It doesn’t show how those children have been helped – or if, indeed, they have been helped at all. 

That is why we have always attached so much importance to evaluation, to assessing what impact Zippy’s Friends has on children, both individually and as classes. 

Over the years the programme has been extensively, independently and professionally evaluated in different countries and cultures, and the findings are remarkably consistent.   Recent large-scale randomized control trials in Ireland and Norway have confirmed that children who join the programme develop improved coping and social skills.  Bullying and problem behaviours are reduced, while academic achievement and classroom atmosphere improve.

There is also growing evidence that the benefits which children derive from the programme last for many years.  In Lithuania, 68% of teenagers surveyed nine years after taking part in Zippy’s Friends said that it had helped them to overcome difficulties in their lives.   In Mauritius, 96% of children remembered the programme after five years and 81% said they still used what it had taught them.  Specifically, it had improved their communication skills, increased their self-confidence and self-control, and helped them to resolve conflicts.

I recall sitting in the garden of a school in Denmark and talking to a group of teenagers, hearing them recall the programme in which they had participated ten years earlier.  One boy in particular sticks in my mind.  I didn’t expect him to even remember the programme, but he did. 

‘Sometimes I think back on Zippy’s Friends when I’m sad or not very good friends with someone, and then I think of the rules and try to follow them,’ he said.

‘Does it still help you?’ I asked.

‘Yeah,’ he said, ’definitely.’ 

So that is why we celebrate.  We haven’t just enrolled one million children, we have had a real impact on their lives.

To all the wonderful people who have made this possible – our partners, supporters, teachers, parents and children – a million thanks. 

Now, together, we need to help a million more.


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Director Chris Bale celebrates the enrolment of our one millionth child into Zippy’s Friends. 


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      .title (string) = MindEd - a new e-learning resource
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Whilst awareness around mental health has improved enormously over the years, there is still much greater understanding, funding and development for physical health.

Imagine a school playground.  A child has fallen over.  An adult rushes over to help and finds that the scraped elbow they were expecting to see is actually a very swollen, bruised wrist.  Caution kicks in and the child is taken to hospital, in case their wrist is broken.

That same caution, however, rarely applies when children have mental health problems.  Signs or symptoms such as bad behaviour, hyperactivity or a lack of interest in things are often dismissed as ‘just how they are’ or ‘it’s just a phase they’re going through’. In some cases this might be true, but in others these behaviours could be an indicator of a mental health problem.  We wouldn’t dismiss a possible broken wrist or an asthma attack so easily, or say it’s ‘it’s just a phase’.

Yet half of all diagnosable mental health conditions start before the age of 14, and so identifying children at the earliest opportunity is crucial in setting them on the best path in life.

Not doing so can cost them their education, harm their relationships with friends or family, and put them at future risk of alcohol and drug misuse, self-harm and neglect.  In extreme cases, it can even cost them their life.

In a recent survey carried out by the MindEd Consortium – a group of child and adolescent mental health experts in the UK – more than a third of adults said they wouldn’t know how to identify a child battling a mental health condition.  Just over half said they would be worried about approaching a child or its parent about a mental health problem in case they were mistaken.

With well over 20 different mental health conditions and many different signs and symptoms, I’m not expecting everyone to become doctors or psychologists. But if every adult who works with children and young people spent just a short time brushing up on the common presentations, such as unexplained weight loss and drastic change in behaviour or personality, potentially thousands of children could be supported to go on to lead much healthier and happier lives.

This is where MindEd can help.

Funded by the UK government’s Department of Health, MindEd is a website which contains free advice, information and e-learning on child and adolescent mental health. It aims to give any adult who works with young people the skills to support wellbeing and to identify a child at risk of a mental health condition early.  It can give people the confidence to act on their concern and, if needed, can direct them to services that can help.

MindEd is quality assured and provides a considerable range of 20-30minute e-learning packages, individually tailored to each audience group – teachers and sports coaches, healthcare professionals, police and judiciary staff, social workers and many more.  The aim is to give people understandable information wherever and whenever they need it, and although the content has been written for UK-based professionals and volunteers, much of the content will be relevant in other countries.

It will take time to get people thinking about mental health in the same way they do physical health – there’s no magic wand that’s going to change attitudes and awareness overnight.  MindEd alone isn’t the answer, but it is a reliable tool and if every adult who comes into contact with children uses it, the gap between mental and physical health provision will soon start to close.

To find out more about MindEd, you can watch the MindEd story (a short video clip), or visit www.MindEd.org.uk


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MindEd is a new e-learning resource about mental health.  Dr Raphael Kelvin, who leads the MindEd consortium, explains how it can help adults who work with children and young people.


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knitted_zippy

Here’s something to fill those spare hours(!) over the summer… Download our new Zippy knitting pattern and make your very own Zippy!

By : Partnership for Children
Date : Jun 5, 2017
Manchester attack

The attack at the concert in Manchester and the attack in London has, understandably, caused a lot of fear and anxiety amongst children and parents. 

By : Partnership for Children
Date : May 31, 2017
Pipe cleaner Zippys

School transitions can be an unsettling time for both teachers and pupils and may bring up difficult feelings. To help your new class or current class with the transition to a new year group and teacher, try these Zippy’s Friends and Apple’s Friends ideas at the end or beginning of term:

By : Caroline Egar
Date : May 23, 2017

Ever since Zippy’s Friends was first trialled over 17 years ago, teachers have asked, ‘What’s next?’ After many years and stages of development, Apple’s Friends has been launched as the follow-up programme to Zippy. However, children don’t have to have done Zippy to do Apple – it can be run as a programme by itself.

By : Aurelija Okunauskiene
Date : May 23, 2017
Zippy in Lithuania

Zippy’s Friends is now extremely successful and well known in Lithuania, with some 35% of all six to seven year-olds taking part in the programme. But ten years ago, this wasn’t the case at all, and times were tough for our NGO, Vaiko Labui.

By : Partnership for Children
Date : May 23, 2017

When our partners send us their annual reports, we need to have accurate statistics on school, teacher and children numbers. But the bit we enjoy reading most are the stories which tell us, more than numbers, what Zippy and Apple can do for children. Here are a few of the most recent success stories from around the world.

By : Partnership for Children
Date : Apr 11, 2017
Zippy song time

A song or a rhyme can be a great way to start or end you Zippy or Apple class. Our Norwegian partners have created a brilliant Zippy’s Friends song complete with English translation

By : Partnership for Children
Date : Feb 27, 2017
Inclusion Supplement

While the main Zippy’s Friends folder has everything you need to teach the programme, don’t forget there are lots of great ideas for extending and enhancing activities in the Inclusion Supplement. These activities have been specially designed to ensure children in your class with special educational needs (SEN) can get the most out of the programme but can be beneficial for the whole class.

By : Partnership for Children
Date : Feb 27, 2017
Apples Friends

Lucy Stevens is the SENCO of Berry Hill Primary School in Gloucestershire. She has been running Apple’s Friends with a Year 3 class since November 2016. Read our interview with her.

By : Partnership for Children
Date : Feb 27, 2017
bullying

Bullying is not only horrible to experience, but research shows it can have long-term detrimental effects on mental health. Both Zippy’s Friends and Apple’s Friends focus on bullying and try not only to reduce bullying in the classroom but also to give children coping skills to support them now and in the future.

By : Partnership for Children
Date : Sep 14, 2016
Parent and child

Involving families in Zippy’s Friends and Apple’s Friends is a great way to help children to use their new skills outside the classroom.

By : Partnership for Children
Date : Sep 14, 2016
Feelings

The first modules of Zippy’s Friends and Apple’s Friends focus on feelings. For young children, learning about feelings is a key skill that will help them to manage their emotions and ask for help when needed.

Why is it important to identify feelings?

By : Partnership for Children
Date : Aug 31, 2016
knitted zippy's

There are lots of things you can do to set the tone before your first Zippy class. Many schools add an extra session (session 0) to introduce the characters, the rules and show that Zippy classes will be different from other lessons.

By : Partnership for Children
Date : Jul 13, 2016

Zippy’s Friends launched in France this year, with seven schools taking part in the programme. Last month our CEO Wendy Tabuteau and Programme Director Caroline Egar went to visit to find out how the programme has been running.

By : Partnership for Children
Date : Jun 7, 2016
Family activities

We re-launched our resilience-building activities for children this week and one family got a sneak peek.

By : Partnership for Children
Date : Jun 1, 2016
Boys in a Zippy class in Brazil

Parents have told us they really notice a difference in their children when they take part in Zippy’s Friends and Apple’s Friends. These stories from our international partners show what a positive impact our programmes can have for families:

By : Wendy Tabuteau
Date : May 19, 2016
Wendy and Marcus at Broadcasting House

Last Wednesday, with the rain streaming down, we headed off to BBC Broadcasting House to meet Marcus Brigstocke, to record our BBC Radio 4 Appeal which will be broadcast in June.

By : PFC
Date : Mar 3, 2015
Schools and teachers are usually judged on their children’s academic achievements.  But is that sensible?  Director Chris Bale looks at an important new report which suggests not.
By : Randi Talseth
Date : Nov 4, 2014
Growing up in one of the world’s richest countries is easy, right? Wrong! Randi Talseth, head of Voksne for Barn (Adults for Children), is concerned for Norway’s forgotten children.
By : Jeppe Kristen Toft
Date : Sep 29, 2014
Category :General,
Jeppe Kristen Toft in Denmark has learned that asking a young child ‘Why?’ she or he did something can be intimidating for the child and rarely elicits useful information for the adult. Better, he says, to try another approach.
By : Jane Tingle
Date : Sep 2, 2014
Children starting school
In many countries, a new academic year is beginning and millions of children are going to school for the first time.  Jane Tingle reflects on the challenges that they – and their parents and teachers – will face.
By : Caroline Lifford
Date : Aug 4, 2014
Charlotte-St Joseph's School, Cranleigh, Surrey

Caroline Lifford, who manages our work for children and young people with Special Educational Needs (SEN), argues that these are the pupils most in need of mental health promotion.  But what is the most effective way to help them? 

By : Maddie Burton
Date : Jun 25, 2014
Maddie Burton

The recent stabbing of a teacher in the northern English city of Leeds and the arrest of a 15-year-old student leads Maddie Burton, Senior Lecturer in Child and Adolescent Mental Health at the University of Worcester, to reflect on the prevalence of mental health disorders in schools and the need for more services.

By : PFC
Date : Jun 9, 2014

Director Chris Bale celebrates the enrolment of our one millionth child into Zippy’s Friends. 

By : Dr Raphael Kelvin
Date : Apr 22, 2014
Dr Raphael Kelvin

MindEd is a new e-learning resource about mental health.  Dr Raphael Kelvin, who leads the MindEd consortium, explains how it can help adults who work with children and young people.

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School
Partnership for Children, 26-27 Market Place, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, KT1 1JH, England
Telephone : 00 44 (0) 20 8974 6004 - Registered Charity number: 1089810