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The SHARP project

Simulation-based Holistic Approach to reducing and Preventing Knife Violence (SHARP)

Evaluation type

Feasibility study
See project

Organisation name

Imperial College London

Funding round

Launch grant round




London, London, London

Activity Type

Knife education programmes


School and college


Ipsos Mori

What does this project involve?

The SHARP project aims to reduce knife crime by using virtual reality, simulation exercises and artistic performance to offer young people an opportunity to better understand the impact of knife crime. It’s delivered by the Imperial College Centre for Engagement and Simulation Science (ICCESS), in collaboration with The Prince’s Trust and The Change Foundation. The project provides two workshops to 11-14 year olds, both of which feature simulations of knife crime incidents and encourage pupils to reflect upon them in a safe environment.

Why did YEF fund this project?

Sequential simulation is a tool often used in healthcare education, where trainers use live performance to re-enact challenging situations and environments, and encourage participants to consider how to approach these challenges. It involves real clinicians, live actors, different physical environments, simulation tools and scenarios, and aims to provoke discussion and reflection.

The SHARP project was developed to make use of this approach (alongside using art and the lived experiences of young people) to reduce knife crime among young people. In the year ending March 2022, there were around 45,000 offences committed in England and Wales using a knife or sharp instrument, and we know that knife crime disproportionately impacts young people. Funding was awarded to deliver the project and learn whether SHARP’s methods could reduce young people’s involvement in knife crime.

Specifically, we funded a feasibility study of the SHARP project that aimed to:

  • develop a comprehensive evaluation framework that could be used in a larger scale evaluation;
  • determine the most appropriate measures for assessing SHARP’s outputs and outcomes;
  • identify the best methods to recruit, engage and retain young people;
  • explore whether the programme achieved its intended outcomes (and how, why and in what context they may have been achieved);
  • identify factors that supported or interfered with delivery;
  • and develop insights to design a more rigorous evaluation of SHARP in the future.

To answer these questions, the evaluation used a survey with c.200 young people, focus groups with 19 young people, interviews with 7 teachers and 10 delivery staff (including Young Ambassadors), and observations of workshops.

Key conclusions

The measures used to assess SHARP were largely appropriate. However, delivery staff reported that some young people struggled to complete the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) and questioned the appropriateness of the SDQ. Following programme delivery, the evaluators questioned the alignment of the SDQ to SHARP’s intended outcomes, and there were logistical challenges collecting the SDQ at the most appropriate point in the workshops.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, SHARP successfully exceeded targets for recruiting schools. The opportunity to engage in VR was also a key draw for engaging young people. However, the recruitment criteria developed to select pupils within schools was inconsistently applied, so the project may not have targeted those most at risk of involvement in serious violence.
Young people reported increased confidence in knowing what to do if witnessing a knife attack. Teachers and young people also reflected that the workshops imparted powerful messages relating to the long-term emotional and physical impacts of knife violence. Girls’ confidence appeared to increase more, which may be because boys were more likely to have previously attended a knife violence class before receiving SHARP.
Ensuring that the content was relevant to local communities, that it was innovative and multi-disciplinary, and that workshops could iterate and improve as they progressed all supported the effective delivery of SHARP. Several factors also interfered with delivery, including persistent challenges with recruiting and communicating with schools in short timeframes, issues with collecting consent from schools and parents for pupils’ participation, limited school capacity to meet space and logistical requirements for workshops, the need to continually consider how to minimise the risk of traumatisation, and the co-ordination of a large delivery team.
Key considerations if proceeding to a more robust and larger-scale evaluation include: the importance of securing and maintaining school engagement; ensuring consistent eligibility criteria and that the workshops are engaging the target group; improving implementation fidelity through standardising the timing of workshops and intervention dosage; and standardising survey administration.

What will YEF do next?

We have opted not to proceed with any further evaluation. While the feasibility study indicates that the SHARP project has promise, further development would be required to align more strongly with our primary outcomes.

Download the report