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Weekly in-school sessions for Year 6 children to reduce behavioural and emotional difficulties.

Evaluation type

Efficacy study
See project

Organisation name

Life Skills Education Charity

Funding round

Launch grant round




East Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber, Yorkshire and the Humber, Yorkshire and the Humber, East Midlands, East Midlands

Activity Type

Social skills training


School and college


Sheffield Hallam University


July 2021

What does this project involve?

DARE Officers delivered ten weekly, one-hour lessons to Year 6 pupils in their usual classrooms with the class teacher present. Lessons involved role play, discussion groups and reading and writing exercises. They aimed to provide information and develop skills to reduce behavioural and emotional difficulties and later offending.

Why did YEF fund this project?

DARE25 aims to encourage children to make safer, healthier and more informed choices and keep them safe from involvement in crime and violence. Inspired by a US programme, it has been delivered in the UK since 1996. A previous evaluation of DARE in the UK suggested that the programme may improve children’s knowledge about alcohol and drugs, communication and listening skills, and decision-making ability. However, this evaluation had several limitations.

In 2019, a new version of the programme was launched including new sections on knife crime and hate. To evaluate it, the YEF commissioned a randomised controlled trial aimed to ascertain its impact on behavioural and emotional problems among Year 6 pupils. Experiencing these problems has been shown to be associated with involvement in later crime and violence. The trial involved 3,881 pupils from 121 schools, and took place in 2020/21, with schools receiving the programme from April to July 2021. Both delivery and evaluation therefore took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring both the evaluators and delivery team to adapt.

Key conclusions

DARE25 had a low impact on reducing children’s self-reported behavioural and emotional problems. After the programme, children in the DARE25 schools reported slightly lower levels of behavioural or emotional difficulty compared to their counterparts in schools who did not receive DARE25. This result has a low security rating.
DARE25 had no impact on children’s self-reported levels of physical aggression, whether they reported socially excluding others, and how socially excluded by others they themselves felt. It had a low impact on reducing children’s self-reported verbal aggression, substance use and the amount of physical attacks and threats they received. It had a high impact on reducing self-reported non-violent, low-level crime. These are the secondary outcomes which should be interpreted with more caution.
Teachers and DARE Officers reported that the skills and experience of DARE Officers were a key factor in effective delivery. Close joint working relationships between teachers and DARE Officers were also seen as beneficial.
Teachers reflected in interviews that the programme’s content was well pitched and that DARE25 effectively engaged pupils. Some suggested that greater flexibility in response to the contexts of different schools would be helpful. Pupils consulted via interviews and focus groups perceived that their confidence, ability to resist peer pressure, decision making and communication skills had improved.
The core components of the intervention were largely delivered as intended. Some interviewed teachers reflected that tailoring the content and delivery may be effective, particularly adapting teaching to meet the needs of pupils with special educational needs (SEN) or English as an additional language (EAL) or amending the content to focus on issues with local relevance.

How secure is the evidence?

These findings have a low security rating (2/5 magnifying glasses).

The trial was a well-designed, efficacy, randomised controlled trial.

It did not include as many children as originally intended, reducing the trial’s ability to accurately estimate the impact of DARE25.

37% of the children who started the trial were not included in the final analysis because they did not participate in testing (in part, due to the COVID-19 pandemic). We do not know if the effect found for DARE25 would be the same if the children missing from the final analysis were included. The children in DARE25 schools were similar to those in the comparison schools.

How might the programme be used?

DARE25 could be deployed as a universal programme in primary schools to reduce children’s risk of engaging in violence and crime. The programme could reduce children’s level of behavioural and emotional difficulty.

It requires only one hour per week, over ten weeks, of children’s time and offers a standardised package of well-designed resources. In this trial, the YEF funded the delivery of the programme in schools. Schools would need to fund their own participation in future.

When delivering the programme, care should be taken to ensure:

  • Teachers develop close working relationships with DARE officers, supporting them to deliver the content to classes.
  • Ten sessions are delivered in ten weeks, plus a graduation ceremony. Children who received the programme in this way reported, on average, larger reductions in their behavioural and emotional problems.

What will YEF do next?

The YEF currently has no plans to run a further trial of DARE25. However, the lessons learned from this evaluation will greatly inform the delivery of DARE25 and other in-school interventions that aim to reduce children’s emotional and behavioural difficulties and later offending behaviours.

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