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School education to decrease domestic violence

Forensic Psychological Services (FPS) is evaluating work being done in schools to help prevent domestic abuse and sexual violence against women.


Violence against women – both intimate partner violence and sexual violence against women – affects a large proportion of the population, leading to major public health problems and violations of women's human rights. Population-based studies of relationship violence among young people (or dating violence) suggest that this affects a substantial proportion of the youth population (NSPCC, 2009).

The evidence-based prevention of such violence is still in its infancy and much remains to be accomplished. The recent public health approach to prevention recognises that in order to achieve successful primary prevention, early intervention is required that focuses on younger age groups (WHO, 2010). School-based programmes to prevent violence among young people are supported by the best evidence of effectiveness based on Canadian evaluation studies (e.g. Wolfe et al., 2003; Wolfe et al., 2009).

The Tender Education and Arts programme

Tender Education and Arts is an educational arts organisation working to help address the need for early intervention. It aims to: 

1. Enable young people (5 – 25-year-olds) to develop positive attitudes towards relationships in order to prevent domestic abuse and sexual violence. 

2. Equip adults with the skills and resources they need to promote healthy relationships amongst young people.

Since 2004 it has delivered a unique model of healthy relationship education to over 200 schools and pupil referral units across greater London. Using drama and the arts, this 'Tender relationships' model engages whole schools in teacher training, peer-to-peer education and practical workshops for pupils.

Tender is now rolling out the model at a national level, forming a partnership of five organisations in five regions of the UK. FPS will assess the impact of the project, with six key objectives for the evaluation:

1. Assess the impact of the work, the extent to which the model has achieved the stated aims of the project. Also to assess the perceptions of those involved, including young people, performance workshop audiences, teachers, head teachers, Local Education Authorities, workshop leaders and partner organisation staff. We will highlight whether there were any unexpected effects of the work, beneficial or otherwise.

2. Identify the lessons learnt from the work, in particular the delivery of the model by partner organisations. We will explore the strengths and weaknesses of performing and creative arts as a means of informing, engaging and challenging opinions of young people, engaging schools' staff and disseminating the work to other students in the school.

3. Identify best practice for wider dissemination. This includes the management and staff of Tender, the national partners, the consortium of funders, individual secondary schools, Local Education Authorities and the Department of Education.

4. Influence education policy and practice at the individual school, borough and national level.  We will appraise the programme in terms of its contribution to policy and curriculum developments in the field of personal, emotional, citizenship and relationship education.

5. Understand the key components necessary to create an operations manual that will ensure quality control and quality of delivery.

6. Conduct a literature review on Tender's aims and responses to the prevention of domestic and sexual violence in the lives of young people within the context of education policy. This would build on what was carried out in previous Tender evaluations and would take the form of an adapted Rapid Evidence Assessment, which would be updated throughout the project to incorporate the latest literature.

The project runs from September 2012 – September 2015.

Lead investigator: Dr Miranda Horvath (FPS) 

Project manager: Dr Erin Sanders McDonagh (Department of Criminology, Middlesex University) 

Consultant Professor: Sara Selwood (http://saraselwood.co.uk/) 

Research assistant: Shola Apena Rogers (FPS)

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