Virtual reality technology programme used to tackle youth knife violence
Date published: 19 June 2022
The programme has been shown to impact greatly on awareness, attitudes, and behaviours around knife-related violence
An innovative scheme, which uses virtual reality technology to help young people in Greater Manchester to make the right decisions to avoid youth violence, is being rolled out across the region.
Greater Manchester’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) has worked in partnership with Greater Manchester Magistrates’ Association to launch the Violence Prevention through Virtual Education programme, Virtual_Decisions.
Following a successful pilot which has seen 1,395 pupils across 31 Greater Manchester schools take part, the 12-week programme, created and managed by creative arts company Round Midnight, will now be expanded and rolled out to pupils from Year 5 through to Year 8 across Greater Manchester.
The technology uses real actors to take the young person through a virtual reality experience that places them in realistic scenarios where they face dilemmas and must make their own choices which result in various outcomes. It allows young people to experience peer pressure and choices in a safe environment.
A 12-week curriculum follows on from the virtual reality experience to reinforce lessons learned, including discussion and comparison of different experiences. The programme has been shown to impact greatly on awareness, attitudes, and behaviours around knife-related violence.
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “Like many other city-regions, sadly Greater Manchester has experienced some very serious and tragic events involving young people carrying and using knives.
“The best way we can help to tackle this is by making the right, relatable and engaging educational opportunities available to young people. I’m really excited that our Violence Reduction Unit, in partnership with Greater Manchester Magistrates’ Association and Round Midnight, has been able to put this virtual reality education programme in place to help keep more young people in our region safe from knife violence.
“The technology gives a great insight into the many challenges and decisions young people face in their day to day lives. It shows just how important every decision they make can be in leading them closer to or further away from danger.
“Organisations across Greater Manchester are working exceptionally hard to continue to educate and protect our young people and this is another boost to those efforts.”
Nicola Jones, Enrichment Coordinator at Youth Challenge Secondary, said: “The Round Midnight programme is amazing, the approach worked really effectively with our students as it gave them time to talk, and the facilitators listened to everything they needed to speak about. I personally have been in many sessions around crime and knife crime with our students, but this made them stop, think and most importantly listen. The idea of the VR sets to engage young people is nothing short of genius. What an amazing programme.”
Paul Brearley JP, Chairman of the GM Magistrates Association, said: “This is a great example of cross sector collaboration, delivering innovative education through a medium which is embraced by young people, impressing upon them the potential consequences of carrying, never mind using a knife.”
Stuart Lane, Director and Founder of Round Midnight, said: “Virtual_Decisions helps young people to grapple with real world scenarios in a safe, virtual setting. It uses powerful, immersive technology within a highly engaging format to create empathy and challenge perceptions. We’ve had such a great response to Virtual_Decisions from schools in Greater Manchester, who see its potential to improve life chances and reduce crime.”
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