Case Study – Mentor: Unplugged

During the recruitment process we have had considerable interest from Pupil Referral Units and Special Educational needs schools. This could suggest that the level of need of young people in these types of educational institutions is greater than young people in mainstream education in terms of vulnerability to risky behaviour or that the structure and nature of these schools mean teachers are more open to trialling programmes such as Unplugged.

The first Unplugged Training took place on Thursday 14th and Friday 15th January in Salford. Eleven teachers from eight schools attended the training. 91% of participants rated the training, its content, and objectives as good or excellent, and 50% stated that learning from this training will be used to shape and improve their teaching approach in general (within PSHE). Following the first training, the Unplugged programme is already being delivered to 308 students.

We are confident that Unplugged will have a strong and positive impact, mainly due to the high need in Salford and second because it is targeted at those young people most in need by reaching students in Pupil Referral Units and Special Schools.

Feedback from the training
Professor Peer van der Kreeft from the University of Ghent, the programme developer, delivered the training. During the training the teachers played the role of their pupils in order to better understand their feelings, problems, fears, and expectations and tested delivery of some of the Unplugged lesson plans on the rest of the group. The training also highlighted the importance of developing positive group dynamics and a safe classroom environment in which to discuss the topics that are covered by the Unplugged programme.

Teachers’ feedback revealed that all participants highly valued the training approach used. In particular, teachers valued the interactivity and participation encouraged in the training, which allowed them to find new ways of creating and delivering lessons.

This is a positive characteristic of the Unplugged training, differing from other approaches which are mainly focused on information provision and passive learning. Another important aspect of the training is that teachers, by understanding this specific positive characteristic, will ensure it is taken into account to shape their teaching approaches accordingly. Participants also noted that most activities helped them to adapt their practice in terms of lesson preparation and delivery.

Whilst at the training teachers clearly recognised activities and approaches which, according to their views and expertise, would benefit their students drastically (specifically referring to better behavioural management, better engagement, and better understanding of group dynamics).
Teachers also requested a baseline questionnaire to be able to monitor the project’s impact and justify it against Ofsted’s criteria. Mentor discussed this with Professor van der Kreeft, who agreed that he could include this. Mentor considers this to be a useful addition since it will allow us to provide stronger results to LEAF in terms of measuring the impact of the programme, while also allowing schools to make a stronger case to local authorities about the importance of prevention.

Some quotes from our training evaluation form
What did you like most about the training?
“Meeting new people”
“Practical examples”
“Learning new ways to separate classes into groups”
“Training was interactive and thought provoking”

How do you hope to change your practice as a result of this training?
“Try new activities/push out of comfort zone
“Explore more group work”
“Follow workbook and resources available”

Further Comments
“I thoroughly enjoyed the training and programme. Thank you”
“Very enjoyable and informative”

Conclusion
Mentor is incredibly excited to have already trained 8 schools in Salford, allowing over 300 children to benefit directly from an evidence-based prevention programme. We are hopeful that this will have a positive impact on these children and many more in the coming months.

It is interesting to note, from our observations during the initial stage of the programme, the demand from Special Education schools and Pupil Referral Units. We hope that at the end of the pilot of the Unplugged programme we will not only have evidence of what works in prevention, but also more information about the gap in terms of possible beneficiaries.

We are currently exploring options to expand the programme across the UK.

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