Barnardo's of Northern Ireland PATHS® Project

What is PATHS® Plus?
Barnardo’s NI has adapted a proven international model of intervention on Social and Emotional Regulation (PATHS® Programme) and married this with a targeted programme “Friendship Group” to create PATHS® Plus.  This project has been funded under the Realising Ambition programme, supported by Catch 22 and the Big Lottery Fund.

What is  the PATHS® Programme?
The PATHS® Programme is a programme for educators and counsellors designed to facilitate the development of self-control, emotional awareness and interpersonal problem-solving skills.  The programme consists of a variety of lessons, and additional materials and charts.  The PATHS® Programme is designed for use with primary school children.  The purposes of the PATHS® Programme are to enhance the social competence and social understanding of children, as well as to facilitate educational processes in the classroom.  The PATHS® Programme has been adapted for a UK audience by Barnardo’s NI.

What is Friendship Group?
By Primary 4 (Year 3), many children feel comfortable interacting with their peers at school.  They are able to join in and get along with others easily, participate in team activities, communicate effectively with peers, play with others in a cooperative and fair manner, and manage conflicts peacefully.  For various reasons, however, these social skills do not come easily to some children.  Some children struggle with the task of making friends, and others have trouble maintaining friendships. 

Friendship Group is a social skill training programme that offers children the opportunity to learn and practice PATHS® skills in the context of small, supportive peer groups with adult guidance. The programme is for children in P4-7 (Years 3-6), and focuses on similar themes to PATHS® - teamwork, cooperation and communication skills, fair play, negotiation skills, and effective conflict management.  In addition, children have an opportunity to talk about their social worries, and receive support in coping with challenging peer situations.

Currently we are working in 44 schools across the UK, and this figure will rise each year of the programme.

  • 10 schools - Renfrewshire, Scotland
  • 10 schools - Belfast, NI
  • 8 schools - Swansea, Wales
  • 16 schools - London England

Next year we are moving to new areas in Wales and NI also.  (7 new schools signed up in Bridgend area, Wales, and 10 new schools signed up in Western NI.  We also have a further 7 new schools in Belfast, and 1 new school in London).

 This year, we worked with 6750 children.  We hope to double this next year.

Staff Names:

  • Paul Edwards, Programme Manager 
  • Mairead Ewart (Children’s Service Manager for PATHS® Plus)
  • Gwendolyn Olaleye, Tim Souster and Joanna Watson (PATHS® Coaches in London)
  • Elaine Britton (PATHS® Coach in Wales)
  • Karen Fennell (PATHS® Coach in NI)

We are recruiting new staff in Scotland and West of NI.

 Some positives to note from the first year of implementation…

1.  A quote from teacher in Vauxhall Primary School, London (nominated for school of the year!)

 “The PATHS® Plus Programme has integrated fantastically into our school ethos of inclusion and achievement for all.  Through systematic, regular support and training from the PATHS® tutor, all members of staff are equipped with a shared vocabulary for supporting children in developing their skills in social interaction, problem solving, recognising and dealing with emotions amongst other skills.  An individual intervention programme for those children needing more practise at these PSHE skills comes in the form of Friendship Groups, a small-group, adult-led programme where we have already begun to see a rise in these children's self-esteem and social skills”. (Holly Westlake)

2.  Emma Kennedy (Redriff Primary School, London) will be leading on a workshop at the Implementing Implementation Science Conference, Cambridge University, 28 July, on the implementation of PATHS® in their school. 

3.  Lisnasharragh PS, Belfast received an inspection shortly and the provision for pastoral care provision in their school was deemed outstanding, and the PATHS® programme was complimented verbally by the inspectors when they observed a class in action.

4.  Successes in St Anthony’s PS, Renfrewshire

“A pupil that struggled managing his anger and frequently had outbursts of screaming and crying is now using the strategies learned during PATHS® lessons to manage is anger and control it. He now rarely has outbursts and is making new friends and enjoying school a lot more”.  (Nicola Cunningham In-school coordinator for PATHS®)

“Another child in our communications unit is successfully using the feelings cards to communicate his emotions, this was something he struggled with in the past and often had violent outbursts.  He is more calm now and the violent incidences have decreased”. (Nicola Cunningham In-school coordinator for PATHS)

5.  Successes in Wales

During a meeting with Emma Thomas and Laura Crowley of Trallwn Primary School both teachers confirmed that they felt that implementation of the PATHS® programme has had a big impact on the children within their classes in regards to their emotional literacy. As the school are a restorative school they have daily check-ins where the children go around the circle describing how they are feeling. Since the introduction of PATHS both teachers have seen a massive improvement in the variety of vocabulary used and the depth in which they can talk about their feelings. Both teachers also feel that feelings faces have been useful for pupils who have previously found it hard to express themselves.

6.  Mairead Ewart (CSM of PATHS® and PATHS® Plus) received accredited PATHS® trainer status with PATHS® Education Worldwide.