Grassroots: empowering pupils to reduce conflict by positively influencing their peers
Grassroots is a programme that aims to reduce bullying and conflict in schools by empowering a group of pupils to positively impact their peers’ prosocial attitudes and behaviours. This trial will be delivered by the Behavioural Insights Team.
Each school assigned to receive the programme will complete a survey asking pupils to detail which other pupils they’ve had contact with recently. The project team then uses the answers, along with demographic data, to identify a group of approximately 30 pupils who, between them, can represent the whole student body. The school is then assigned a trained Research Assistant, who convenes this group of pupils for 10 fortnightly sessions over the course of the rest of the school year.
In these sessions, RAs will help pupils to: a) Identify areas for improvement in student interactions, b) Generate possible solutions (for example activities they may do, what they might encourage their friends to do), c) Provide opportunities for action (for example weekly or fortnightly challenges), d) Make initiatives visible to others (for example putting up posters and handing out wearable items, like wristbands, to peers for prosocial behaviour), e) Help pupils use online platforms to reach others (for example videos, social media content).
Schools/settings in England can register their interest to take part in this project below, or go to YEF’s website to find out more: https://youthendowmentfund.org… More information is also available on the Grassroots website: https://grassroots.bi.team/.
If your school/setting is in Wales, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and the Youth Endowment Fund (YEF) are partnering to commission a number of research projects to find out which approaches are most effective in enabling pupils at the highest risk of absenteeism and/or exclusion from school to attend, positively engage with, and remain in school/college, to improve their attainment and reduce the likelihood of them becoming involved in violence.
A systematic review conducted by Kowalski and Limber in 2013 concluded that bullying is prospectively associated with school absenteeism, that bullying victimisation is prospectively associated with later educational achievement, and that that bullying perpetration is prospectively associated with later aggression and/or violence. Adolescents are particularly influenced by peers – the EEF’s attendance interventions rapid evidence assessment found that peer networks may be more powerful levers for this group than the risk of negative consequences from anti-bullying sanctions.
Previous international trials of Roots (USA and Indonesia) found the approach to be promising, with a reduction in disciplinary events related to conflict and bullying among adolescents by 25% over one year in treatment schools found in the USA trial. The programme was never implemented in the UK, as such the EEF and the YEF are interested in evaluating it in England and Wales.
The Institute of Education, within University College London (UCL) will evaluate this project. The proposed design is a two-arm randomised controlled trial with pupils clustered at school-level with a business-as-usual control and including a mixed methods implementation and process evaluation (IPE) and cost evaluation. Since the intervention was never implemented in the UK but holds extensive international evidence, there will be a light-touch pre-efficacy pilot with four schools. This will be used to test implementation of the adapted intervention within a UK context.
The main research question explored by the team is: Does empowering KS3 pupils to positively impact fellow pupils’ prosocial attitudes and behaviours reduce pupil conflict, including bullying perpetration, and school absence?
The evaluation will have Attendance (measured at a 2 year follow-up) as primary outcome of interest, and the following secondary outcomes: (1) bullying perpetration and victimisation (measured using the Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire), (2) behavioural and emotional problems (measured using the SDQ), (3) disciplinary incidents.
The first evaluation report will be published in Spring 2025. A follow up report outlining impact of the intervention on attendance outcomes will be published in Spring 2027.