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Mental Health Foundation: Becoming a Man (BAM)

School-based social skills training for 12-14 year old boys, delivered via weekly group sessions

Evaluation type

Feasibility study
See project

Organisation name

Mental Health Foundation

Funding round

Launch grant round





Activity Type

Social skills training


School and college


Dartington Service Design Lab, University of Exeter, University of Plymouth


July 2023

What does this project involve?

Becoming a Man (BAM) aims to support 12 to 16 year old boys to improve their social and emotional skills, self- awareness, relationships with peers and adults, engagement in school, and reduce their likelihood of offending. The central component of BAM is the BAM Circle, a weekly group session, delivered in school, to 8-12 young people. Delivered over 2 years by a BAM counsellor, Circles include a range of activities (such as role plays, group missions, and lectures) and these activities promote BAM’s core values,  including integrity, accountability and positive anger expression. Alongside BAM Circles, the intervention also provides group activities outside of school, informal check-ins with young people, and individualised 1:1 support where required. In this project, BAM was targeted at 12-14 year olds, in two South London secondary schools and one Pupil Referral Unit (PRU).

Why did YEF fund this project?

BAM has a Level 4 evidence rating on the Early Intervention Foundation Guidebook, meaning that it has “evidence of a long-term positive impact on child outcomes through multiple rigorous evaluations”. Two randomised controlled trials have shown positive impacts on numbers of arrests (for violent/all crime) and school performance for students with an average age of 15 years living in racially segregated and deprived communities in Chicago. However, evidence for the effectiveness of BAM comes exclusively from the US. YEF, therefore, funded a feasibility study of BAM to begin to evaluate the programme in a UK context.

The evaluation aimed to ascertain whether BAM was successfully implemented, whether successful implementation may have led to improved social and emotional, behavioural, and academic outcomes, and whether there were any unintended consequences. To explore these questions, the evaluation analysed routinely collected programme delivery data (including data on participation, participant demographics, and assessment of students), alongside conducting interviews and focus groups. 52 interviews were carried out by the evaluation team, including 13 scholar interviews, 15 with parents/carers, four with school staff, 16 with BAM counsellors, and four with YG and MHF professionals. 95 children participated in the programme during the study; 56% of them identified as Black/Black British, 18% as Mixed Ethnicity, 10% as White/White British, and 6% as Other. No data on ethnicity was provided for 7% of children.

The feasibility study ran from March 2020 to November 2022. The study took place during the coronavirus pandemic, requiring both the delivery and evaluation teams to adapt to challenging circumstances.

Key conclusions

The evaluator judged the quality of delivery to be generally successful. BAM counsellors were perceived to be proficient and skilled in several areas of delivery, and counsellors praised the implementation support received from MHF and YG. Several adaptations were made to the programme to improve programme implementation, including changes to how the programme was presented to schools and how the curriculum was delivered.
School context and COVID-19 posed scholar recruitment challenges, meaning that there was a higher level of need amongst BAM scholars than originally intended. Ninety-five scholars were enrolled at the start of the programme; 62 (65%) remained enrolled after two years. Scholars that remained enrolled were all from the two secondary schools. All PRU children were withdrawn at the end of year one due to a lack of support from PRU staff, the severity of scholars’ needs, and mixed attendance.
Ninety-eight percent of scholars attended at least one session. These scholars attended an average of 15 sessions in year one and 14 in year two (compared to a target of c.21 annually). Counsellors faced challenges in progressing through the curriculum, including schools cancelling sessions to focus on GCSEs and maintaining the group conditions required to complete sessions.
The small number of young people interviewed perceived that they had fostered three of BAM’s values: Integrity, Accountability, and Positive Anger Expression. While they suggested that other influences (such as family, friends, faith, or football) had contributed to their development, BAM scholars did reflect that BAM made an important contribution to the development of their values.
Young people perceived that following BAM, they were applying themselves more at school and making more pro-social choices in risky situations. The greater presence in some BAM groups of children with serious behavioural concerns may have led to a minority of scholars perceiving BAM as an intervention for those with high levels of need rather than something to be celebrated.

What will YEF do next?

To build on the findings of this feasibility study, YEF funded a pilot study. The pilot study to aims to establish whether BAM has promise and test aspects of evaluation design to inform a next-stage evaluation.

Download the report