Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS) is a school-based social and emotional learning (SEL) curriculum that aims to help children in primary school manage their behaviour, understand their emotions, and work well with others. PATHS consists of a series of lessons that cover topics such as identifying and labelling feelings, controlling impulses, reducing stress, and understanding other people’s perspectives. It is delivered twice weekly in 30 – 40 minute lessons by teachers to all children in a given class, typically in the slots allocated for Personal, Social and Health Education. This curriculum is supplemented by activities that support the application of new skills during the school day and activities that are sent home to parents that cover the topics taught in class.
In this trial, 45 participating schools from Greater Manchester were randomly allocated to implement PATHS for two years (school years 2012 – 2013 and 2013 – 2014) or continue their usual practice during the same period. This evaluation focuses on the academic outcomes of the intervention for children in Years 5 and 6 in English/reading and maths.
The main trial was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and focused on the impact of PATHS on the social-emotional wellbeing of children in Years 3 – 5. The outcomes of this study include: social and emotional competence, quality of life, and attendance. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) provided additional funding for PATHS training and materials, in addition to the evaluation of the academic outcomes detailed in this report. PATHS materials were provided by Barnardo’s, and training was led by staff from the Evidence-Based Prevention and Intervention Support Centre at Pennsylvania State University (PSU). Teachers implementing PATHS were supported by trained coaches.