FRIENDS

The FRIENDS programme aimed to improve English and Maths attainment by increasing resilience and reducing anxiety in primary school pupils. The programme consisted of 10 weekly sessions covering topics including emotional self-management and recognising anxiety. Sessions were 60-90 minutes long, and were delivered during the school day by external project officers. Students were also given homework activities. 

accessibility

Key Stage 2

Key stage

school

Cross curriculum

Subject

EEF Summary

The FRIENDS programme is a cognitive-behavioural approach that is widely used in schools and has been trialled in Australia, Sweden, the Netherlands and the US.This study follows a previous, smaller evaluation which explored the impact of FRIENDS on academic attainment in the UK. The EEF co-funded this evaluation with the Department for Education to assess whether the FRIENDS approach could improve attainment by reducing anxiety.

The study provides no evidence that FRIENDS improved Maths and English outcomes or reduced anxiety. Pupils eligible for free school meals experienced a small increase in self-rated anxiety and depression, although these results may have lower security than the overall findings because of the smaller number of pupils.

The EEF has no plans for a further trial of FRIENDS, but will continue to support projects which aim to raise attainment by improving skills such as emotional self-management. 

Research Results

KS2 combined maths and reading

0
Months' Progress
Evidence Strength

KS2 combined maths and reading (FSM)

+1
Months' Progress

N/A

Self-rated worry

+0.05 (Effect size)

Evidence Strength

Self-rated worry (FSM)

+0.15 (Effect size)

N/A

Were the schools in the trial similar to my school?

  • There were 79 schools in the trial, located within the Kent Local Authority.
  • Before the trial, the average percentage of pupils in participating schools achieving expected levels at Key Stage 2 in both English and maths was 82%.
  • 26% of the pupils in the trial schools were eligible for FSM.
  • 9% of the pupils had English as a second language. 

Could I implement this in my school?

  • The FRIENDS programme is available to buy from Friends Resilience.
  • This trial tested an external delivery model, but schools can also buy teacher training in order to implement the programme themselves from organisations like Salus.
  • Schools often struggled to fit the FRIENDS sessions into the school timetable, which led to variations in the amount of time dedicated to the programme. 
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External Tutors

Delivered by

group_add

Whole Class

Participant group

date_range

10 Weeks

Intervention length

How much will it cost?

For an average single form entry school, the cost of delivering FRIENDS is £1,728 a year, or £64 per pupil per year.

£

£64

Cost per pupil

people_outline

N/A

No. of Teachers/TAs

today

0.0 Days

Training time per staff member

Evaluation info

Schools

81

Pupils

3284

Key Stage

Key Stage 2

Start date

October 2015

End date

December 2018

Type of trial

Efficacy Trial

Evaluation Conclusions

  1. The project found no evidence that FRIENDS had a positive impact on children’s academic attainment, overall. This result has a high security rating. 

  2. Among pupils eligible for Free School Meals, those in the FRIENDS classes made 1 additional months’ progress on a combined maths and reading measure compared to children in other classes. These results may have lower security than the overall findings because of the smaller number of pupils. 

  3. The project found no evidence that FRIENDS has a positive impact on children’s health outcomes, overall. This result has a very high security rating. Pupils eligible for Free School Meals experienced a small increase in self-rated anxiety and depression, although these results may have lower security than the overall findings because of the smaller number of pupils. 

  4. Overall, time was found to be the biggest pressure in ensuring consistency and quality of delivery. Schools often struggled to fit the FRIENDS sessions, which varied in length, within the school timetable. This lead to a variability in the amount of time dedicated to FRIENDS. 


  1. Updated: 20th December, 2018

    Printable project summary

    1 MB pdf - EEF-friends.pdf

  2. Updated: 13th December, 2018

    Evaluation report

    3 MB pdf - FRIENDS.pdf

  3. Updated: 3rd August, 2016

    Project Protocol

    508 KB pdf - EEF_Project_Protocol_University_Of_Manchester_Character_-_FRIENDS.pdf

  4. Updated: 25th July, 2017

    Statistical Analysis Plan

    478 KB pdf - Character_round_-_FRIENDS_SAP.pdf

Full project description

FRIENDS for life is a school-based, cognitive-behavioural therapy programme, designed to promote emotional resilience in order to prevent (or stabilise) the development of negative feelings of anxiety and depression. The programme consists of a series of 10 weekly sessions covering topics such as recognising symptoms of anxiety, emotional self-management and supporting peer relationships. Each session is enhanced by a series of additional activities that can be used to practice the newly learned skills as well as homework activities. The Salus Group (Salus), a training provider offering a range of programmes in schools, within the community and at home, delivered the intervention. Salus delivers FRIENDS in the UK and is not affiliated with the original FRIENDS developers.

The project was a cluster-randomised control trial. 122 Year 5 classes in 79 participating primary schools were randomised to either receive FRIENDS or to act as a business as usual control group. The evaluation tested the impact of FRIENDS on the attainment of pupils, measured by combined Key Stage 2 English and Maths scores, and also on health measures of self-rated worry, anxiety and depression, and teacher-rated difficulties. The process evaluation involved interviews with various stakeholders, class observations and focus groups with pupils. The trial took place in schools between March 2016 and July 2017. The programme was co-funded by the Department for Education as part of an EEF funding round on Character Education.