Psychology students are helping local school children implement positive change in their community through a unique educational programme.

Year 5 students in eight schools across Bolton are taking part in Project Chameleon, a ten week course run to raise their understanding around the implications of crime and social awareness.

Delivered by former police officers, Project Chameleon encourages 300 students to think about their behaviour and effects on others. The course covers a range of topics including respect, consequences, burglary, drugs, domestic violence and weapons.

Twelve Psychology students are currently supporting the delivery by undertaking 30 hours of voluntary work in the schools and applying their theoretical psychological knowledge into the classroom.  They have received training in key areas including safeguarding; boosting their employability skills to help them forge careers in psychological or educational areas.

‘Through my experience of dealing with children who commit crime, whilst serving in the police, I was shocked by how many of them did not understand the law around the crime they had committed,’ said CEO of Global Policing and former Chief Inspector at GMP, Shane O’Neill.

‘In the UK, children become criminally responsible at the age of 10 but there is nothing in place to educate children on the law that we expect them to know if they break it.

‘I have developed Project Chameleon to educate children about crime, the law and being a good citizen. This allows children to gain an understanding and ask questions so that they can make the right choices in life. I believe every child reaching the age of 10 should take part in this project.’

The University of Bolton is conducting an academic evaluation of the effectiveness of Project Chameleon on children. Funding has been secured for this research through the University’s 2017 Jenkinson award to Dr Gill Allen, Associate Teaching Professor in Psychology and programme lead of BSc (Hons) Criminological and Forensic Psychology.

The project aims to analyse the effectiveness of the intervention on the attitudinal and behavioural change of students. It will also compare the changes between students who undertake the study and those who do not in comparative local schools, by measuring behaviour, achievement, disciplinary records and police records.

The ambition is that the programme will continue to develop in both size and understanding with more schools taking part, and eventually that it could be incorporated into the students’ curriculum.

‘Project Chameleon allows our students to really make a difference to the local community and support young people in making the right decisions,’ said Dr Gill Allen.

‘Not only does it allow Psychology students to apply their knowledge in an educational setting, but it helps them develop their understanding of policing and the multifaceted psychosocial factors associated with offending behaviour.’

University of Bolton Psychology students who were interested in taking part applied to Global Policing before being interviewed for the position. Those selected had to present to Dr Gill Allen and Shane O’Neill in order to demonstrate that they had the necessary communication skills to work with young people.

‘Involvement in Project Chameleon affords our Psychology students the opportunity to fulfil the applied experience component of their course, in addition to providing data for third year honours projects,’ continued Dr Gill Allen.

‘The experiences of student involvement alongside our contemporary research findings will be fed back into the classroom through lectures and practical workshops for all Psychology students to benefit from.’

Michelle Mack, third year Criminological & Forensic Psychology student is coordinating the student volunteers and using the data gathered for her third year honours project.

‘I am thoroughly enjoying being part of Project Chameleon,’ said Michelle.

‘The Global Policing staff are fantastic to work with and friendly and there are some great characters in the schools! Over the last two years my career plans have evolved and I am incredibly interested in any proactive measures used which may help to prevent children committing crime and ending up with a criminal record.

‘Project Chameleon is an amazing educational programme which equips young children with knowledge to help them make the right choices, and does it in a fun and interactive way. I am excited for the coming sessions and would like to thank Global Policing and the University of Bolton for this great opportunity.’

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