At Partnership for Children, research and evaluation has been the basis of our programmes from the start. Our programmes have rigorous scientific evidence to show that they’re effective. Unlike many SEL resources on offer to schools, our programmes have been evaluated through a number of large randomized control trials (RCTs) – the ‘gold standard’ of research – in a variety of cultures.
The results of the RCTs has been remarkably consistent. Since 2001, they have been carried out in Denmark, Lithuania, Ireland, Norway, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, and all have shown statistically significant improvements in coping and social skills for the children taking part in the programmes, when compared to control groups.
Other findings have included increased emotional literacy, improved class climate, a reduction in bullying, and improved academic performance (as assessed by their teachers). The most recent RCT, in the Czech Republic, found particularly strong results for children with a diagnosis of special educational needs.
Teachers report consistently positive views of the programmes, with some being surprised at how freely children will discuss their feelings and problems, and come up with positive strategies to deal with them. Others report how it has brought them closer to the children and helped them to understand them better.
Czech Republic, 2016
This RCT of Zippy’s Friends was conducted in Prague in the academic year 2015-16. The study involved 807 children in zero, first, second and third grades (from 5 to 9 years old), using a questionnaire completed pre- and post-test by both teachers and parents. The study showed significant improvements for the children doing Zippy’s Friends, particularly in self-regulation and cooperation with peers, and, like earlier studies, showed similar benefits for boys and girls. Importantly, the study found particularly strong results for children with special educational needs. Whilst children with SEN in the control group showed no improvement, those doing Zippy’s Friends increased their skills significantly, in some cases almost reaching the level of their more able peers.
Read the report. (PDF)
The Netherlands, 2015
A randomized control trial was conducted by the renowned Trimbos Institute in the Netherlands, involving 1,177 children completing both Zippy’s Friends and Apple’s Friends. Overall, the results are positive with both child self-report and parent report measures revealing a significant positive impact on children’s social, emotional and behavioural outcomes.
Whilst teacher reports did not show significant programme findings, results from the child-self report measures indicated a significant improvement in children’s emotional recognition skills and adaptive coping skills. In addition, parents also reported an improvement in children’s social and emotional skills, in particular, enhanced motivation and reduced externalising behaviour problems including hyperactivity and aggressive behaviour.
The largest study to date was conducted with nearly 1,500 children in Norway. Published in 2012, it made a number of positive findings about the programme’s effects on children. It found that participation in Zippy’s Friends significantly improved children’s coping skills, as had been found in earlier studies. Teachers assessed that children’s academic skills had improved too. The programme significantly reduced bullying, and, in a new finding, reported that the social climate in the classroom was improved.
Another comprehensive study was conducted by the Health Promotion Research Centre at the National University of Ireland, Galway. This randomized control trial involved 730 children from 42 schools in the West of Ireland. The results, published in April 2010, showed that the programme was successfully implemented and that teachers were ‘consistently positive’ about it. Taking part in Zippy’s Friends ‘significantly improved the emotional literacy and coping skills of the children, reduced their hyperactivity levels and led to improved relationships in the classroom.’ Another encouraging finding was that 77 per cent of teachers who taught the programme said that it had a positive effect on children’s academic achievement.
The results of the Irish evaluation were consistent with the positive findings of other international studies.
Denmark and Lithuania, 2001
In 2001, a study in Denmark and Lithuania looked at Zippy’s Friends in different languages, different grade levels and very different types of school environment. It concluded that the programme had been successfully implemented in both Denmark and Lithuania, and found that children in both countries showed clear improvements in coping abilities and social skills. The programme was equally effective with boys and girls.
The results of this study have been published in the following article: Mishara, BL and Ystgaard, M, 'Effectiveness of a mental health promotion program to improve coping skills in young children: Zippy's Friends', Early Childhood Research Quarterly 21 (2006) 110-123.
Other evaluation studies
There have been three further studies in Lithuania. The first found that all the improvements in children's social skills and problem behaviours that were recorded during the programme were maintained one year later. This is particularly encouraging, because Zippy's Friends aims to teach young children skills that will help them for the rest of their lives.
The second study in Lithuania looked at whether children who had taken part in Zippy’s Friends in kindergarten adapted better to the more structured curriculum of primary school than those who had not taken part. It found that they coped significantly better in a number of ways. This article has been published as: Monkevicien?,O, Mishara, BL and Dufour, S (2006) ‘Effects of the Zippy’s Friends Programme on Children’s Coping Abilities During the Transition from Kindergarten to Elementary School’, Early Childhood Education Journal 31(1), 53-59.
The third study, completed in late 2009, traced some of the children – now teenagers – who took part in the original evaluation in Lithuania. It found that most of them not only remembered Zippy’s Friends but also said that the programme had helped them to cope with difficulties in their lives. This study, titled Nine Years On – What Children Remember of Zippy’s Friends, is published in full on this website.
A number of smaller studies have been conducted in other countries.
Zippy’s Friends in Special Schools
The adapted version of Zippy’s Friends for children and young people in special schools has been evaluated by the University of Birmingham. The findings of this study suggest that the Special Needs Supplement to Zippy's Friends "can have beneficial effects for children with SEN, particularly in the areas of self-awareness, ability to regulate emotions and relationship skills".