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Upbeat outcome for happiness lessons

An evaluation of happiness lessons being trialled with 11- and 12-year-olds in three local authorities has found that they helped to improve school attendance and relieved symptoms of depression.

But the research from the London School of Economics also found that the sessions had less impact on helping children to cope with anxiety.

The UK Resilience Programme was adapted from the Penn Resiliency Program - a well-known scheme which aims to help children to build up their ability to cope with the disappointments and shocks they will face in life.

The programme is delivered through a series of 18 sessions and teaches children to think carefully about why things happen, rather than relying on what may be inaccurate beliefs, and to use coping mechanisms when things go wrong. Children are also taught a range of techniques in assertiveness, negotiation, decision-making and relaxation.

The scheme began in 22 schools in South Tyneside, Manchester and Hertfordshire in September 2007.

An earlier evaluation found that the sessions had a positive impact and that this was greater if the sessions were delivered weekly rather than every fortnight.

A follow-up evaluation published last week by the Department for Education confirmed this, although it was found that the effect of the workshops lasted only as long as the academic year and had faded 12 months later.

It found that the programme did best when it was delivered to mixed-workshop groups rather than to targeted pupils because special educational needs classes benefited from the presence of more literate pupils. If the programme was perceived as remedial, it could stigmatise those targeted and, since all pupils were likely to experience problems around everyday social interactions, it was likely that all pupils could benefit from the sessions, it found.

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