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“When you pick Zippy up, it’s like picking up a friend.”

Partnership for Children team member, Jayne Carter, recently visited one of our Lincolnshire Skills for Life schools to talk to staff and pupils about Zippy’s Friends. St Peter at Gowts have been running Zippy’s Friends since 2008 and took part in an evaluation study by the Education Endowment Foundation in 2016.

During the visit, Jayne spoke to Charlotte Loveday who delivers Zippy’s Friends in the school and Megan Haywood, the PSHE Lead. It was fantastic to hear the impact that the programme is currently having on children in Years 1 and 2 and but also continues to have on children in KS2.

Zippy Friends is really embedded into their whole school approach to emotional wellbeing, an ethos which was recently recognised by Ofsted, who awarded the school the grade of ‘Outstanding’. Noting the provision for supporting children’s mental health Ofsted noted:

‘Pupils develop a strong sense of community, locally and globally. They have a strong moral understanding of treating everyone equally and with respect. Many take on leadership roles such as online safety officers, peer mediators and wellbeing ambassadors.’

Charlotte and Megan ensure that all aspects of the Zippy’s Friends programme are securely embedded into the school’s curriculum design, planning for the programme to be taught explicitly but also used for other aspects of mental health teaching. For example, during assessments, questions are designed to encourage children to use the skills and coping strategies they have learnt from Zippy’s Friends, and this also helps staff to plan the next sequence of learning.

Charlotte kindly shared with Jayne the resources which she uses to enhance the Zippy’s Friends programme. These included lots of knitted Zippys and other knitted characters from the stories, class floor books (a fantastic way to show progression of learning in PSHE and very useful to share with the inspectors) as well as ‘Zippy’s Diary’ - a knitted Zippy and diary that children take turns to take home and fill out each weekend.

In developing the whole school approach, Charlotte and Megan found the Skills for Life PSHE Mapping documents were a helpful resource to connect each aspect of their mental health curriculum.

Charlotte often reflects on the impact of Zippy Friends for the children in school and uses the questionnaires included in the programme resources effectively. She analyses these questionnaires frequently to identify children who may need extra support, which is then planned into her delivery.

We always encourage the schools we work with to adapt our Skills for Life programme(s) to their setting, and it was interesting to hear about additional activities the school uses to support the programme. Charlotte has added mindfulness activities into most lessons to encourage children to include these into their ‘toolbox’ of coping strategies. She has even adapted some of the images to represent the St Peter at Gowts school community, so children continue to see themselves represented and valued. These new images include the school building and key landmarks around the school. Zippy’s Friends is delivered in Years 1 and 2, with the Year 1 children completing modules 1, 2 and 3, and the Year 2 children completing modules 4, 5 and 6.

Jayne had the opportunity to spend time talking to the current KS2 children in the school, who shared their memories of Zippy’s Friends, highlighting how the programme continues to help them. It was lovely to hear them speaking positively about the programme:

“I remember that we had a tree with lots of different emotions on. That was so helpful as if I couldn’t explain things, I went there instead.”

“The moving on module was so helpful as I was moving house myself, so it gave me time to adjust. I was able to use lot of the things we talked about in the Zippy lesson like taking a breath and telling myself that it was all going to be ok.”

“As Zippy and the characters grew up, so did we.”

“When you pick Zippy up, it’s like picking up a friend.”

“I wouldn’t have the things I have if it wasn’t for Zippy. He really, really helped me.”

Many thanks to the staff and pupils at St Peter at Gowts for inviting us to visit!

The Zippy’s Friends programme at St Peter at Gowts Church of England Primary School, Partnership for Children
27 March 2024

“Because I learnt how to help others with Zippy. I am now a wellbeing warrior in school. I had to show that I had lots of strategies which could help others, so I just used the ones we talked about in our Zippy lessons.”