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Round Midnight and the Greater Manchester Violence Reduction Unit are working with five schools in Oldham, Stockport, and Wigan to trial a new curriculum designed to make sustained improvement to the lives and young people and their communities by tackling the underlying causes of crime and instilling social empathy. Across the five schools (two primaries, two secondaries and one alternative provision), the programme will be delivered to approximately 700 young people by Summer 2022.

Round Midnight is an award-winning creative arts organisation that specialises in theatre, drama, and tech in education. Since 1992, Round Midnight has worked with over 200,000 young people delivering projects across the UK and internationally.

In September 2019, Round Midnight created Virtual_Decisions: GANGS™ with Bafta-winning production company BDH Immersive. Virtual_Decisions: GANGS is an early intervention virtual reality programme for young people that explores gang culture, criminal exploitation, and anti-social behaviour. Alongside academic researcher Dr Stephanie Burnett-Heyes, School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Round Midnight carried out extensive research with over 1,200 young people to find out “What is risk-taking behaviour?”. This research led to the creation of Virtual_Decisions: GANGS; its themes, the storyline, the characters and the follow-on workshop.

By wearing a virtual reality headset, each pupil is placed in a realistic scenario where they are faced with multiple choices in which they must make decisions. Each decision results in various outcomes, showing that every action has consequences. Following the immersive 8-minute virtual reality experience, a creative workshop explores the issues raised in more depth. Through discussions and creative exercises, the young people can reflect on their own personal journey and compare it to others, making it a user-led and user shared experience.

Since the programme’s launch in April 2019, Round Midnight’s expert facilitators have delivered the Virtual_Decisions: GANGS™ programme to over 2,000 young people in the West Midlands and Greater Manchester. 71% of young people that completed the programme said they are now more likely to consider the consequences of their actions, and 95% of young people said that their knowledge of gang culture and criminal exploitation has significantly increased.

The multi-award-winning programme has proven to be a powerful early intervention tool. Each workshop also highlights issues that need further exploration and identifies the additional support young people need.

Sami Cornick, Development Manager of Round Midnight said.  “It’s wonderful to be working alongside Greater Manchester Violence Reduction Unit education team to create a new Violence Reduction Curriculum, using the Virtual_Decisions programme at its core. We’re looking forward to seeing the programme have a sustained impact on young people’s lives, their families lives, and in their communities.”

Teachers will deliver the programme in PSHE lessons over the next school year.

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