Written evidence submitted by the Pyramid Project at the University of West London
The impact of COVID-19 on education and children’s services
Submission from the Pyramid Project at the University of West London
Background to the Pyramid project
Pyramid clubs (www.uwl.ac.uk/pyramid) are an evidence-based intervention, validated by the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) and included in the EIF Guidebook as a suitable intervention to support the social and emotional development of children. The clubs are also recommended on the Anna Freud Mentally Healthy Schools website for primary schools. The clubs are delivered in schools to groups of children aged 7 to 14 who have been identified by their teachers as being shy, quiet, withdrawn, anxious and struggling with friendships. The reasons behind these difficulties are many: some have special educational needs or disabilities, diagnosed or as yet undiagnosed; some are recent arrivals from another country or another part of the UK; some have English as an additional language; some have suffered abuse or some other sort of major trauma; some may have been bullied in school or elsewhere; some have had school absences due to illness; some may be living in poverty or in a home where a family member is ill, either physically or mentally; some are just a bit quirky or different and so can be excluded by peers; and some have a personality that means they internalise their difficulties and find it very difficult to work with their peers or ask for help. The aim of the groups is to help them to develop better coping skills for whatever is troubling them, and to support them to make better friendships.
The Pyramid model has been around since the 1980s and can be delivered by either paid staff or volunteers. As the intervention runs once a week for 10 weeks it offers an ideal placement opportunity for university students who are studying Psychology, Education or related courses. Having expanded hugely when there was dedicated funding to support early intervention (e.g. under Children’s Fund or the Targeted Mental Health in Schools programme), the number of areas running Pyramid clubs has substantially reduced but they still cling on in areas of England including London, Manchester, Lancashire and Gloucestershire, and in Northern Ireland and some areas of Wales. The University of West London (UWL) either directly runs clubs in schools, or it licenses other organisations (charities, local authority Education Psychology departments etc.) to run the intervention.
The impact of COVID-19 disrupting delivery of Pyramid clubs
Clearly, if the schools are closed, the clubs cannot run. We cannot speak for those running clubs under licence elsewhere, although the impact is likely to be the same, but UWL had just completed one club for Year 7 pupils in a school in the London borough of Ealing and had three more clubs running there and five clubs running in Surrey. The impact has been:
Schools, and potentially the Education Committee, will be focussing on the impact on children’s learning due to the closures. Some attention has been paid to children’s mental health, but those of us delivering interventions like this to schools will worry that academic progress will take precedence when the schools do reopen. However, for many children, their vulnerability comes from the state of their mental health and failure to meet their needs in this area could have a much longer-lasting impact on their future health and careers. We need to make sure we do everything we can to make sure we pay full attention to their other needs during this very worrying time.
Page 3 31st March 2020