The Intervention – Pyramid Club in Secondary Schools
Pyramid Club in secondary schools is a targeted, early intervention treatment programme for students aged 11-14 years, who are shy, quiet, withdrawn or anxious. The school-based programme recognises that some students may find settling into secondary school overwhelming and aims to support their social and emotional development (including social skills, self-esteem, self-confidence, and emotional regulation). Pyramid club secondary therefore provides these students with a safe and supportive space to unburden themselves and form positive relationships with their peers and adults. The club is typically run as an after-school programme but can also be run during the school day (e.g. during lunch break or curriculum time). Three or four trained practitioners deliver the programme to groups of students (10-12 per group) in the same year group. The programme is delivered over 10 weeks in 90 minutes weekly sessions.
The Service – The Ellen Wilkinson School for Girls
The Ellen Wilkinson School for Girls has been delivering Pyramid Club for over 5 years. The school is a large comprehensive for 11 – 19-year-old girls in the borough of Ealing, West London. The school has about 1300 pupils who come from up to 60 feeder primary schools. The pupils attending the school come from a range of different backgrounds, faiths and cultures.
Hatice Osman is an Assistant Head teacher at the school and has been co-ordinating the delivery of Pyramid Club in the school for the last 5 years. She shared her experiences of the school’s implementation of Pyramid Club.
NEED – Making the Decision about Pyramid Club
Local Need: Hatice explained that Ellen Wilkinson School for Girls (EWS) is large and takes pupils from a wide area of London with about 60 primary schools feeding into the school. This means that new pupils can sometimes be the only child starting from their primary school, which can make the transition challenging for some. The school was looking for a way to support this transition for these pupils, as well as supports for those pupils who were low in confidence, quiet and who might be struggling to make friends. Hatice noted that the school has a range of support for children but was aware there may be a gap in support for those children who are at risk of going unnoticed, as they were internalising their distress. In addition, the school has some children with additional support needs and wanted another intervention that would be adaptable and accessible for all.
Programme Selection: Hatice explained that the school was approached by the Pyramid Club developers at the University of West London about running the programme. They decided that it would meet their needs and so began working with the developer Bronach Hughes.
Intended outcome: By delivering the programme in the school it was hoped that the pupils attending would have improved confidence, develop friendships and improve their successes socially and academically. Hatice explained that she has observed how much the pupils enjoy the groups and that they have fun. The groups are always well received by parents. The staff at EWS are all aware of the groups and see it as a valuable support for many pupils. Hatice can see the improvements for those who attend, with an increase in their confidence and many young people developing friends through attending.
FIT – How does Pyramid Club fit with The Ellen Wilkinson School and the community?
Hatice explained that at EWS they think the transition into the school is very important and can set pupils up for future success socially, emotionally and academically. They also endeavour to have a variety of supports available for all pupils that may require it. They have a diverse population in the school, children from a range of backgrounds, those with additional support needs and pupil premium students, who may come from areas of deprivation. Children from all backgrounds may struggle with the transition and to settle in but may go undetected due to them internalising their distress; those who are shy, lacking in confidence and struggling socially. The school wants to ensure all children can access the support they need. It was felt that Pyramid Club would fit well with the school’s priorities.
SUPPORTS – What supports did Pyramid Club provide?
EWS worked closely with Bronach Hughes, the programme developer, to understand how the programme would fit with their needs and to develop a way of identifying appropriate pupils for the groups.
Bronach provides the group facilitators who run the groups. Three or four final year Psychology students from the University of West London (UWL) deliver the groups during school time.
Hatice explained that they have developed a good relationship with Bronach and she continues to offer the school annual meetings to monitor the groups and ensure the ongoing identification of the right young people for groups. Bronach visits the school prior to group delivery to meet with Hatice and then to observe a couple of the group sessions.
Training: Training of the Psychology students is undertaken by the programme developers. School staff are not involved in the direct delivery of the group however a member of the EWS staff helps facilitate the group and there is weekly written and verbal feedback regarding the sessions so the school can follow up on the feedback.
Data collection: The UWL asks the pupils form tutor who attend the group to complete a Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) prior to the first session and at the end of the group to measure any social, emotional and behavioural improvements. In the school they also monitor children’s overall emotional, social and cognitive development as a measure of change.
Financing: During the initial implementation the school did not incur any additional costs in running the group, as facilitators were provided by the UWL and the groups took place on school property during school time. The school now pays £1100 a year to the UWL for the delivery of the group.
Referral and recruitment: Pyramid Club is delivered once a year, in the second term, starting every year in January. This enables Hatice and other school staff some time to identify who might benefit most from the group. Formal referrals are not made, rather, appropriate young people are identified through observation, academic achievements, record’s of any incidents, friendship breakdowns and attendance. Letters are sent out to pupils and their parents to inform that they will be attending the group. Hatice noted that parents and young people are always happy for them to be allocated a place and to attend the group. They have never had anyone refuse the offer of the place in the group.
USABILITY - What was The Ellen Wilkinson School’s experience of implementing Pyramid Club?
Although Hatice and other school staff have not undertaken the training, she reported that she feels they have a good understanding of the group in order to be able to identify the right young people who would benefit from attending. Hatice was aware that the groups and materials are well organised and the manual is clear. She thought the groups were well structured with a different focus and activities each week.
Modifiable components: Hatice was aware that the facilitators are able to accommodate and adapt the group so as to meet the needs of those young people attending.
Fidelity: Facilitators from the UWL delivering the group are observed by the programme developer on a couple of occasions each run to ensure the group is being delivered as intended. They also receive supervision from the programme developer.
Hatice added that the facilitators keep notes for each child and add details of the content covered in the group and how the young people are engaging. Hatice is able to review these notes as a way of monitoring pupils’ progress and helping to reinforce any content covered in groups.
CAPACITY – What is The Ellen Wilkinson School’s capacity to deliver Pyramid Club?
EWS currently deliver one group a year. Each group has up to 15 pupils attending. Three or four students from the UWL deliver the group. The group runs for 10 weeks and is delivered in the school during class time. Hatice explained that this delivery meets their needs at the current time.
Time commitment: At EWS the facilitation of the group is not undertaken by school staff, however, there are still time commitments involved in the implementation of the groups. Time is required to identify the right children, to allocate pupils to the group and to arrange the logistics of setting up the groups. The school need to ensure the facilitators have resources and space available and are ready for the groups starting. Hatice also requires time on the day of the group to ensure all those allocated a place are in the group when they are meant to be.
Hatice thought the groups was well designed, purposeful and was effective in getting good outcomes for their pupils. She also noted that it is also affordable and therefore sustainable for the school. Hatice explained that she sees the selection of the right young people as key for the Pyramid Club success, it is important that those who require the support the most are able to access it.
The main challenge she noted was the logistics; ensuring that the right children are selected, the resources and room are ready and that all young people are in the group when is it running.
Hatice thought the Pyramid Clubs strengths were that it provided young people with the time and space to develop friendships, confidence and self-esteem. She has observed young people who previously did not have friendships develop them with others attending the groups, she thought the smaller, less formal environment of the groups helped many develop close friendships that persist long after the group has ended. Hatice thought the Pyramid Club offers the right support to the right people and meets a need in their school. Hatice would advise other schools considering running the group to ‘just go for it’ she thought it was a brilliant support for many young people who might just need a bit more support with their transition to secondary school.