The Confident Resilient Children Project: Key findings from the pilot study

We explore findings from the Confident Resilient Children Project and reflect on these in the wider context of primary education.

The Confident Resilient Children (CRC) Project is a school-based intervention delivered to pupils in Year 5 and 6 (aged 9-11), funded by the Youth Endowment Fund. NatCen was commissioned to conduct a pilot evaluation of the programme following an initial feasibility study. The intervention is designed to build children’s emotional resilience and confidence and protect them from exploitation and crime. It also aims to support children in the transition to secondary school.

The CRC Project comprises a universal component delivered by teachers and a targeted component delivered by trained mentors to pupils identified as being at greater risk of exploitation. The universal component is delivered over 11 weekly sessions and centres around two digital comic books, called Choices. These depict thought-provoking stories about the challenges and risks young people are faced with. Mentoring sessions build on the themes of the comics though discussions about key concepts and activities such as role-playing scenarios.

Technology driving engagement

Interviews with teachers and pupils revealed that the use of technology was a key element which drove pupil engagement and appealed to teachers when deciding to sign up to the project. The comics were viewed on iPads and contained lots of interactive elements which made the sessions enjoyable and different to other lessons. The visual storytelling also helped to keep pupils who were more reluctant readers engaged with the content.

As well as acknowledging the appeal of technology and gaming, the stories themselves cover dangers of the internet and being a digital citizen. The need for online safety education is underscored by ONS findings, nearly one in five children between the ages of 10–15 in England and Wales experienced at least one type of online bullying behaviour (19%) and nearly a third accepted friend requests on social media from people they did not know (29.6%). Discussions around how pupils themselves would react in high-risk situations online helps them to identify potential dangers and make rational decisions about who and what they engage with. The programme is delivered at a key time before the transition to secondary school, when children are increasingly exposed to online harms, and parents have less control over their online activity.

Unique role of mentors

Mentoring sessions were well-received by pupils and school staff. Mentors were trained to use their own personal experiences to relate to pupils and to present themselves as positive role models. Pupils and mentors reported being able to build good relationships within the sessions through establishing an informal and open atmosphere. This enabled pupils to explore their concerns outside of the classroom environment.

The successful differentiation between the roles of mentor and teacher could have wider implications for education. A recent report by the charity Education Support about working conditions in UK schools found that a growing number of teachers (74%) had reported supporting pupils with personal matters beyond academic work. For example, helping them to process their emotions or resolve a family conflict. Schools adopting mentoring programmes to deliver personalised support more widely could help to reduce the pressure on teaching staff to provide emotional support.

Barriers to teacher-led interventions

Despite identifying a range of benefits for pupils, teachers reported that the additional workload associated with delivering and co-ordinating the programme was sometimes burdensome. Teachers mentioned difficulties completing administrative tasks, finding time to plan lessons, and issues with completing the programme within the suggested timeframe around other commitments (e.g., SATs). These workload pressures echo findings from the Education Support report which states that 72% of teachers felt their workload fell outside of acceptable levels.

Teachers who were able to flexibly adapt CRC resources and lessons to fit in with the school context appeared to report greater satisfaction with the programme. Recommendations made in the report to optimise delivery therefore include supplying more guidance around how to adapt resources to suit teachers’ and pupils’ needs and streamlining the associated admin as far as possible.

To read the findings, methodology and recommendations of the pilot study in full, download the pilot report from the YEF website.