Zippy’s Friends is an intervention designed to improve children’s coping skills. Teachers deliver sessions built around stories about a stick insect (Zippy) and his friends, who are young children. The stories involve issues children might encounter, such as: friendship, conflict, change, and difficult feelings. The children discuss the issues raised, and play games and do role-play activities about emotions and coping.
Testing the impact of a teacher-led, story-based programme designed to improve primary school children’s coping skills
Queen's University Belfast
Character & essential skills
Staff deployment & development
Zippy’s Friends is widely used internationally and has been found to have a positive effect on social and emotional outcomes. The EEF funded this trial to see if these results could be replicated in English schools and to measure whether the programme could improve reading outcomes.
The evaluation measured the effect of Zippy’s Friends on reading attainment and emotional self-regulation, and found no evidence of impact. While the trial was large and well-designed, several factors reduce the security of the findings (security was low for emotional self-regulation and low to moderate for reading). For example, comparison schools increased their provision of social and emotional learning during the trial, even though they didn’t use Zippy’s Friends, so the programme was not actually tested against business as usual. This means that the results of this trial show that Zippy’s Friends had no additional benefit over the extra social and emotional learning provision in the comparison schools.
Positive academic outcomes from Social and Emotional Learning programmes may take longer to feed through than those from academic interventions. The EEF will therefore monitor the long term attainment outcomes for the schools that received Zippy’s Friends.
The project found no evidence that Zippy’s Friends improved reading outcomes or emotional self-regulation for Year 2 pupils. These findings have low to moderate and low security, respectively.
There was no effect on reading attainment for pupils who had ever been eligible for free school meals. There was a small negative impact on emotional self-regulation for these pupils, but this result has lower security than the overall findings because of the smaller number of pupils.
Children receiving Zippy’s Friends made small improvements in teacher-reported self-regulated learning, compared to other pupils.
The programme was very well received by teachers: all survey respondents felt Zippy’s Friends had benefits for the children involved.
Evidence suggests that the impact of social and emotional learning programmes can take time to feed into academic outcomes. It is therefore recommended that academic outcomes are followed up at a later time point.
Full project description
Zippy’s Friends is a whole-class social and emotional learning (SEL) programme that aims to develop children’s coping skills, including their ability to manage stressful situations. It is an internationally-used, well-developed programme aimed at class teachers of children in Years 1 and 2, run by the independent charity Partnership for Children.
There is indicative evidence that the social skills and self-regulation skills developed through Zippy’s Friends could also improve children’s academic attainment. This project aimed to test the impact of Zippy’s Friends on academic attainment (in reading) and emotional self-regulation among Year 2 pupils.
Zippy’s Friends consists of 24 weekly 45-minute sessions delivered over one school year. Six modules cover stories about a pet stick insect called Zippy and a group of young children who are his friends. Children are actively engaged in the stories through questioning, and learning is consolidated using games, activities, role-playing, and discussion. Zippy’s Friends was delivered by class teachers during the 2016/2017 school year.
The evaluation involved 83 schools from five English local authorities, and 3,904 children. The evaluation was designed as an efficacy trial, with schools randomly allocated to an intervention group to teach Zippy’s Friends or a control group to continue teaching as normal. Interviews, observations, and focus groups were conducted with teachers, local co-ordinators, pupils, and parents. A standard practice questionnaire was administered to all schools at the beginning and end of the trial. Intervention group teachers also completed module report forms (delivery logs) and implementation surveys.