An evaluation of Zippy's Friends, an emotional wellbeing programme for children in primary schools
Clarke, Aleisha M.
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This study reports on the evaluation of Zippy's Friends, an international emotional wellbeing programme for children in primary school. The purpose of this study was to (i) assess the immediate and long term impact of the programme on the pupils' emotional and behavioural wellbeing and coping skills and (ii) examine the process of implementation and the relationship between this process and the programme's outcomes. The study employed a cluster randomised controlled design with data collected from pupils and teachers before, during and after the implementation of the programme. A total of 766 pupils and 52 teachers from 44 disadvantaged schools were randomly assigned to intervention and control groups. The evaluation was comprised of a range of structured questionnaires and qualitative methods. The results from this study indicate that the programme was successfully implemented in disadvantaged primary schools in Ireland and that it had a significant positive impact on the children's emotional literacy, hyperactivity and coping skills. The improvements in the intervention group's emotional literacy scores were maintained at 12 months follow-up. The programme did not have an impact on children's conduct problems and prosocial behaviour. Children in the control group, however, evidenced a reduction in their conduct problems between pre- and post-intervention. Results from the process evaluation indicate that the programme was well received by both teachers and children. Findings from the teachers' weekly questionnaires and structured observations confirm that the intervention was implemented with high fidelity and that the quality of programme delivery was also high. Analysis of programme fidelity further revealed that the intervention had a greater impact when implemented with high fidelity. The structured nature of the programme, the suitability of the content for the children, the engaging activities and the teacher training were cited as factors that facilitated programme implementation. Key recommendations regarding the role out and sustainability of Zippy's Friends in Ireland include the need for a whole school approach and as part of this, the need for active parental involvement with the programme. Overall, the findings from this study are in keeping with a broader base of international evidence on the benefits of emotional wellbeing programmes for children's social and emotional functioning. Furthermore, the results from the process of implementation assist in helping to understand how an evidence-based programme is implemented in the Irish setting and the factors that affect quality of implementation.