A Cardiff primary school has been named as the first Thrive School of Excellence in the city for the role it plays in supporting the wellbeing of its pupils in order to support their mental health and emotional development.
Herbert Thompson Primary School, in Ely, was named as a School of Excellence after going through a rigorous assessment process by Thrive®, which trains teachers and other education professionals to support the emotional and social development of all children. The award recognises extraordinary schools which are making a positive impact on their pupils, and on the wider community, by prioritising emotional wellbeing and creating an environment in which children’s wellbeing thrives.
Headteacher Sheena Marsh said: “The whole school has been on a journey with Thrive and staff have fully embraced the approach because it is based on extensive research and neuroscience. It is a pleasure to see the impact it has had, not only for our children but across the whole school community. We feel honoured to be recognised as a School of Excellence and it is testament to the incredible hard work and dedication of all staff who are committed to ensuring that children’s mental wellbeing is at the centre of everything we do.”
The Thrive Approach helps teachers to give children an understanding of their emotions and how they can manage them in a positive and healthy way. One Herbert Thompson pupil who has benefited from Thrive sessions said: “We’ve been learning how our brain works and how it changes the way we act.”
The highlight of the school’s journey has been launching their ‘wellbeing hub’ affectionately known as ‘Y Cwtch’ (which means hug in Welsh). Children attend for a range of reasons, including low self-esteem, experiences of loss and/or trauma, or because they are at risk of exclusion. Pupils in Y Cwtch experience a range of wellbeing and therapeutic activities, many of which are based on their Thrive action plan, enabling them to feel safe, special and develop their ability to self-regulate. One child commented: “I love going to Y Cwtch and doing gardening and bug hunts.”
Joanna Dunne, Thrive Leader, said “the strategies and activities that are embedded in the Thrive Approach have been the key to developing children’s neurological pathways to ensure healthy brain development. For us it has been the missing piece in the jigsaw.”
The School of Excellence award is the highest level of achievement in Thrive’s Ambassador Schools scheme, which was launched last year as a way of recognising excellence in member schools. There are five areas in which schools can evidence how they use Thrive to support children’s social and emotional development: Environment, Leadership, Right-time, Reparative and Relationship, with the School of Excellence award reserved for schools that achieve the highest standard across all five categories.
As well as submitting an in-depth application form, the school was visited by Thrive staff, when allowed under coronavirus restrictions, to observe and assess the way that teachers and other staff implement the Thrive Approach® to help build the emotional resilience of children, so that they can better manage the ups and downs of life and be more open to learning.
“Herbert Thompson is a school that has made a clear commitment to pupils’ mental and emotional wellbeing and all of the staff there should feel very proud of what they have achieved. During the Covid-19 pandemic the school has used the Thrive Approach to support children and their families and to make sure that the connection between staff and children was maintained and strengthened, even when they couldn’t meet face-to-face. Everyone at the school has come together to create a really positive environment where all children thrive,” said Joey Bowers, Thrive’s Relationship Manager for Wales.