Positive Action

Positive Action is a school-wide programme designed to develop positive attitudes and behaviour, peer relationships and engagement in learning. The curriculum consists of 140 lessons per year group, delivered in 15–20 minute activities 2–3 times a week by the classroom teachers. It consists of six main topic areas: self-concept (the relationship between thoughts and actions), healthy behaviours (physical activity, nutrition), managing oneself responsibly (time management and self-control), getting along with others (empathy, altruism, respect, teamwork), being honest with yourself and others (integrity, self-appraisal), and continuous self-improvement (goal setting, problem solving, courage to try new things, persistence).

The approach is interactive and includes class discussions, small group activities, games, and role-plays. Over an academic year the total content is around 35 hours. Activities are scripted for easy delivery, but can be adapted and integrated with class teaching. The approach has been widely used in the US with over 15,000 schools. This pilot project would test the feasibility of the approach in English schools.

Why are we funding it?

There is promising evidence thatsocial and emotional learning programmes have a positive impact on attitudes to learning, social relationships in school, and attainment. Two Randomised Control Trials (RCTs) have been carried out in Chicago and Hawaii to evaluate the effectiveness of Positive Action. These studies report improved scores in literacy and maths, and reductions in absenteeism, disruptive behaviour and bullying, with the effect on academic ability mediated by improvements in social and emotional skills. There is also some data showing improvements in school culture. However, the programme has not yet been tested in a UK context.

How are we evaluating it?

The pilot would run over four terms from January to December 2016. The delivery team would recruit 15 schools, and would provide training and support in implementing Positive Action. Queens University Belfast would conduct a detailed process evaluation to assess the feasibility of the approach, implementation fidelity, evidence of changes in teacher and pupil behaviours, and the readiness of the intervention to be trialled as part of an efficacy RCT.

When will the evaluation report be due?

The evaluation report will be published in Autumn 2017.