FRIENDS is a 10 week intervention, which offers a suite of opportunities to improve the resilience of children and young people. FRIENDS, which can be delivered in whole classes, in small groups or with individual pupils, utilises behavioural, physiological and cognitive strategies; teaching children and young people practical skills to identify and manage their anxious feelings; to identify unhelpful anxiety increasing thoughts and to replace these with more helpful thoughts; and how to face and overcome their problems and challenges. The programme will be delivered in whole classes, with one hour long session per week for 10 weeks. In addition small group sessions are delivered to children who may need additional support to use the techniques.

The programme is delivered by trained professionals who follow lessons in a programme manual, with children working through a workbook that details activities for each lesson. After the initial 10 week programme two booster sessions are delivered at 1 month and 3 months post-delivery. 

Why are we funding it?

FRIENDS has been tested through numerous trials in, including some with a randomised control trial design, and is recognised by the World Health Organisation as an effective means to prevent anxiety. Much of the original research was conducted in Australia and the programme is widely used there and in Sweden, The Netherlands and the USA. Several randomised controlled trials have found that the programme has a significant impact on anxiety and that children with the highest levels of anxiety benefited the most.

The impact of FRIENDS on academic attainment has not previously been studied and this will be the first trial to look at the impact of the approach on attainment. There is evidence that decreased anxiety is predictive of improved school performance and this study will look at the impacts on anxiety as well as Key Stage 2 literacy and numeracy scores.

How are we evaluating it?

The programme will be evaluated by a team from Manchester University. The evaluation will be structured as a randomised controlled trial, which will compare the progress of pupils who receive the intervention to a “business-as-usual” control group. 80 schools will be recruited to the trial with half of their Year 5 classes receiving the intervention from September 2016.

When will the evaluation report be due?

The evaluation report will be published in autumn 2017.