Zippy’s Friends is an intervention designed to improve children’s coping and social skills. It is aimed at class teachers of pupils in Years 1 and 2. The intervention teaches pupils how to cope with everyday difficulties, to identify and talk about their feelings and to explore ways of dealing with them, as well as encouraging pupils to help others with their problems. The intervention usually runs for 24 weeks, with one 45-minute session each week, so teachers are provided with the resources to deliver 24 weekly sessions.
The sessions are built around stories about a stick insect (Zippy) and his friends, who are young children. The stories involve issues which children might encounter: such as friendship, conflict, change, and difficult feelings. The children then discuss the issues raised, and play games and role-play activities about emotions and coping. Zippy’s Friends has been developed specifically for five to seven year-old children of all abilities, and is provided by the independent charity Partnership For Children.
The intervention is only provided to teachers who have attended the initial training course. Typically, a partner organisation (usually a Local Authority or cluster of schools) takes on the licence to run Zippy’s Friends in a given area, and appoints a coordinator to liaise with participating schools and to arrange training and support meetings for teachers.
Teachers who will implement Zippy’s Friends attend a training course which explains the intervention’s structure and philosophy along with the concept of coping and its implications for the well-being of children. This consists of one day of training and three follow up twilight sessions. Teachers are given a teaching pack with resources and a script for all lessons.
Partnership for Children provides the initial training course and, optionally, runs the first year’s support meetings. Details of which UK areas Zippy’s Friends is currently running in are available on the Partnership For Children website.
The Education Endowment Foundation (2018) evaluation found no evidence that Zippy's Friends improved reading outcomes or emotional self-regulation for Year 2 pupils.
The study found an effect size of -0.02 for primary reading.
The study found an effect size of -0.02 for primary emotional and social learning but with low security. Comparison schools increased their provision of social and emotional learning during the trial, even though they didn’t use Zippy’s Friends, so the intervention 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.
The Education Endowment Foundation is going to continue to monitor the long term attainment for the schools that received Zippy's Friends during this evaluation, positive academic outcomes from social and emotional learning interventions may take longer to feed through.