Over the last few terms, we’ve been tailoring GFS core programme to suit what girls say they need. In our 2023 Girls In Focus Groups, girls told us that changing relationships and friendship ‘dramas’ were some of their main concerns. So, for our Autumn 2023 core programme, our Programme and Impact Team developed special activities to help girls navigate friendships.
Recently, we surveyed girls and their Group Leaders to see how if our Navigating Friendships Programme did what we set out to do.
Nearly three out of four girls said they know that sometimes other people will think or feel differently to them. This is an important step in learning to navigate disagreements or ‘dramas’, because it means we understand we cannot control how others think or feel.
We also wanted to give girls power over their own thoughts and feelings – and over 60% of girls reported that they feel better about other people thinking or feeling differently to them following the terms core programme. While over half of girls reported that they are able to accept others people’s thoughts and feelings outside of group.
And because we know girls sometimes struggle with celebrating the ways they’ve grown, we also asked Group Leaders to take note of girls using skills learned in the programme, so we could compare them with girls’ self-reported progress.
While only 61% of girls said they were able to accept others’ opinions within the group, 80% of Group Leaders saw girls accepting others opinions within group, showing that girls are making progress even when they don’t see it themselves.
“In the Technocamp session the girls worked as a team to solve puzzles using coding. Some of the girls had different opinions on how to solve the puzzles and they went through a few different ways to get the answer.” – GFS Dunvant
100% of groups observed girls using at least one of the key skills from the term’s programme, while 80% observed girls using three out of the four skills.
Because every girl and every group is different, the activities girls engaged most with differed from group to group, but all groups identified activities girls engaged well with, and most Group Leaders felt that girls got something positive out of sessions.
Girls enjoyed a range of sessions and activities, but they especially enjoyed ones that gave them a chance to give and receive compliments and get to know each other better.
“All the girls were able to share something unique about themselves and were excited to share that with the group, but also were interested in hearing what other girls wrote down.” – GFS South Manchester
Each group has girls with different personalities, interests, mixed ages, and different ability levels. Naturally, that means every group has different activities they like and dislike most.
That’s why GFS core programme aims to include a mixture of games, craft, active-play, discussion and drama-based options, so every group can find activities that their girls will enjoy and engage well with.
Most group leaders also identified ways in which they had successfully adapted activities to suit the needs of their individual groups.
All of the groups reported that session plans were clear and resources were accessible.
All of the groups reported that they were able to make activities work for the girls in their group.
8 of the 10 groups reported that the activities helped the girls to practice key skills.
Of course, it wasn’t all perfect, and there’s many areas we wish to improve.
Understanding some of the more complex skills and concepts were a challenge for some of the youngest girls across groups, meaning Group Leaders needed to spend more time helping younger girls understand. This also presented a challenge when there were written elements to an activity, in which younger girls required more support from group volunteers.
Group Leaders and volunteers are happy to support girls or give extra help whenever they need it. But because groups’ time is limited, it may mean they spend all of their time on one activity rather than doing a few different ones.
Development of the deepest level skills is challenging.
One group reported that while girls could apply supportive and rational thinking to others they struggled to apply it to themselves.
A small number of groups reported that while skills development was apparent at group, it was not necessarily something that they thought girls could do outside the safety of group.
Many girls like that GFS is a place where they can feel free and get away from the difficulties life brings.
That means, sometimes girls don’t want to do core programme when it comes up, because they know that there will be a greater emphasis on thinking and talking about feelings, which can be difficult.
Of course, we aim to find a way to balance the two. We want girls to have fun and feel free, while also learning to understand how they and others feel.
Significant differences in group sizes can make planning activities challenging, but GFS Group Leaders are skilled at managing this and breaking the group up or adapting activities to suit their group – and we really can’t say enough about how grateful we are for all the work leaders and volunteers do at group to achieve this.
Moving forward –
We will work to keep the written portions of our activities short enough that suitable support can be provided while not holding up girls who are further along in their writing capabilities.
We’ll also continue to provide a range of activities and options for adaptations to try to maximise both enjoyment and impact for girls, while recognising that groups may respond differently to this.
We feel confident in the abilities of all GFS Group Leaders and know they’re more than capable at supporting the girls in their groups.
We listen to all feedback from girls and volunteers and do our best to learn from it – whether it’s good or bad! And we know any challenges in delivering core programme today will help us develop even better activities for girls tomorrow.