Project information

Promoting Mental Health for Children with SEN

Children with learning disabilities are at risk of poor mental health. Partnership for Children has developed resources for use in Special Schools and this project seeks to roll them out nationally. Pupils will be able to better understand and articulate their feelings, and develop coping skills.

January 2017 - December 2017

Charity information: Partnership For Children

Partnership For Children logo
  • Need


    Children with learning disabilities are at risk of mental ill health: 36% of such children will develop a mental health problem during their lives (60% of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders). A lack of coping and social skills can impact on relationships with peers and family and restrict access to opportunities in society, leading to depression, loneliness, frustration and a lack of self-confidence. Yet Special Schools report a lack of resources to help teachers tackle the issue.


    Partnership for Children has adapted its school-based mental health promotion programme Zippy’s Friends for children with learning disabilities. An external evaluation found that children with special needs benefited from the programme, particularly in the areas of self awareness, ability to regulate emotions and relationship skills. This project will make the programme available to Special Schools nationwide, so many children with learning disabilities can benefit from positive mental health.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    To establish a model of dissemination in five Surrey Special Schools


    » Gather feedback from the 20 Special Schools who have already trialled the programme
    » Update resources according to feedback from teachers
    » Plan most appropriate means of promoting the programme in Special Schools
    » Run training for five new schools who wish to start the programme

    What success will look like

    Success will be establishing a model of dissemination that we can use to effectively roll out our resources to Special Schools throughout the UK.

    Aim 2

    To embed our SEN resources in 50 Special Schools nationwide


    » Promote the programme to new schools via the National Association of Special Schools
    » Run 3 regional workshops for schools who wish to run the programme
    » On-going support and training for schools running the programme

    What success will look like

    Success will be 50 Special Schools across the UK using our SEN resources to benefit more than 500 children with learning disabilities.

    Aim 3

    On-going evaluation and adaptation of materials based on feedback


    » Continuous improvement of materials and training in response to feedback from teachers and parents/carers

    What success will look like

    Success will be demonstrated by adapting our resources in the light of feedback from pupils, teachers and parents.

  • Impact


    We anticipate that at least 500 children with learning disabilities will grow up being better able to understand and articulate their feelings and needs and more effectively communicate with their family, peers and wider society. For some, this may mean a better chance of employment but all will benefit from the skills they learn. Success will also be demonstrated by schools continuing to deliver the project each year and social and emotional health becoming embedded in their curricula.


    One risk is that schools will not want to take up the resources. We will deal with this by consulting with schools that have piloted the resources to ensure they are as relevant and useful as possible. We will also employ a former Special Needs teacher who is highly effective at communicating with his peers about the importance and value of the programme and can liaise with school leadership teams, who ultimately decide on the resources allocated to social and emotional health promotion.


    At the end of the project period, we will report to donors on how many schools are now using the resources, how many teachers have been trained to deliver the programme, how many children are benefiting and how teachers, parents and children feel that the resources have helped.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £20,000

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      Amount Heading Description
      £2,000 Gathering feedback Getting feedback from 20 schools already running Zippy for SEN
      £4,500 Materials Revising and designing materials for print and managing print production
      £5,000 Surrey schools Training and piloting in 5 local Surrey schools (inc. travel)
      £2,500 UK promotion Promotion to other schools around the UK
      £6,000 Roll-out and training Regional training workshops x 3 and roll out of materials
  • Background


    This project is not set in one specific location but rather aims to reach Special Schools, independent and state-funded, throughout the UK. There are approximately 1,500 such schools in England, 150 in Scotland, 50 in Wales and 50 In Northern Ireland. Pupils attend such schools for reasons ranging from emotional and behavioural difficulties, learning disabilities, communication disorders and physical disabilities.


    Children up to the age of 18, with a range of complex and diverse learning disabilities, attending Special Schools across the UK, will be the direct beneficiaries of this project, as they will learn social, coping and communications skills. Teachers, who have been lobbying for such resources to be made available to them, will be indirect beneficiaries, as will parents and carers, as the programme helps children to express emotions, communicate better and manage challenging behaviour.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    Partnership for Children began in 2001. More than one million children have benefited from our mental health promotion programme Zippy’s Friends. We adapted our programme for children with learning disabilities in 2012, piloted it and revised it to ensure its relevance. In 2015 the University of Birmingham evaluated the programme and found that pupils benefitted greatly. Teachers report its success: 'This is what our parents have been looking for, something which gives children life skills.'

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    John Battle

    John has 20 years+ experience in Special Schools and passionately believes that social and emotional development is vital for a fulfilling life.


will pay for a special needs teacher to be trained to use Zippy's Friends for SEN

‘The truth is, some of our pupils may never use what we teach them in geography or history, but they will go to McDonalds, have to queue, place their order nicely and wait. If something unexpected happens they must not be aggressive or violent. What they really need are skills for everyday life.'

Teacher, Rowden House, Herefordshire