Grove Road Community Primary School has 320 children on roll and is based in a diverse community in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. Pupils speak around 20 different languages and there are 96 children on the SEN register. The school began its journey with Thrive® in 2016 after its local authority made two places available for staff on a Licensed Practitioner course. Thrive was seen as an effective means of supporting pupils with a wide spectrum of emotional needs. Grove Road has gone on to combine its use of the Thrive Approach® with the ReflectED metacognition approach which has resulted in the school’s curriculum being rewritten in order to put mental wellbeing and critical awareness of thinking and learning at the centre of school life.
Grove Road screens all children using the Thrive-Online™ (TOL) assessment and profiling tool on a termly basis. This helps to identify children with gaps in their emotional or social development who may need further support. These children then take part in either individual or group Thrive sessions, focusing on the activities suggested by TOL to help plug the gaps in their development. As well as class-based activities, Thrive is used during breaks with indoor craft activities for children that struggle to take part in outdoor play. The Thrive Approach has also been used as the basis for an after-school mindfulness club called No Worries and family sessions around bereavement.
“We have always been really great at being an inclusive school and Thrive has helped us to formalise that. We have found that it has helped the children to better understand each other and to understand the difficulties that we all have with emotions. The action plans from Thrive-Online have helped us to be able to show the progress children are making,” said Assistant Headteacher and SENCO Sasha Bune, pictured right.
Over time, more staff members have been trained in the Thrive Approach and the school has converted its library into a dedicated Thrive room which has been a fantastic resource for pupils and staff, moving its books into a bus in the playground. Because it is a large area, the Thrive room has enough space to have dedicated areas for different Thrive activities as well as a sensory area, sand and water play and a place for dressing up.
“After Thrive was introduced at school, we started to notice that the language that was being used was changing, especially amongst support staff. It had a real ripple effect where the staff that hadn’t had their Thrive training were curious about what was going on because they had heard from colleagues how effective it was. I realised Thrive was embedded at school when I was talking to a Year Five group last year and they said they wanted to run wellbeing groups for younger children. That made me realise that, as a school, we were all on the same page,” said Sasha.
All staff are given training in Thrive and the software package the school uses means that filmed Thrive sessions are available for staff to view in order to see examples of what the Approach looks like in practice. There is also a termly staff meeting focusing on the school’s Thrive work to ensure that everyone is kept updated. This has helped to create a shared approach to behaviour with teachers and support staff using consistent language and strategies when working with children. During the Covid-19 pandemic, staff also applied the principles of Thrive to their own wellbeing – sending key rings to each other with positive slogans to let colleagues know that they were missed and valued.
Grove Road has also focused on using the ReflectED approach to learning, which emphasises children’s metacognition skills - helping them to think about their own learning, assess their progress and set and monitor goals. The school has found that the two approaches to different areas of pedagogy are complementary and that Thrive sits well with ReflectED’s focus on self-awareness and actualisation. This was a crucial factor in obtaining staff buy-in for Thrive at an early point.
“Initially there was a feeling of ‘this is just another thing we’re being asked to do’ but the two approaches marry up incredibly well. With our Thrive work, we were doing assemblies and going into lessons talking about brain development and it really fitted with the metacognition. The children really get it. They can now understand how brain development links to their emotional development and we found that their learning journey was fitting together. It gave us a common structure and language that everyone found easy to work with,” said Sasha.
Assistant Headteacher and Key Stage 2 Lead Christopher Harrison (pictured left) said: “The quality of the Thrive training was brilliant. It’s something that has slotted in perfectly here and we have committed to it. It’s had a big impact on behaviour. A lot of my evidence for that is anecdotal but I see what happens to the children as they walk out of a Thrive session - they are much calmer. They may come to school in crisis and then they arrive and do some Thrive activities and they are calm.”
He added: “There are so many tools out there to help with academic issues. For us, the attainment of most of our children wasn’t the real issue. Where we see the biggest gaps for our children is around self-esteem and relationships with other people - and that’s where Thrive has really helped them.
“This is a school that looks at the unique child as they grow up and Thrive plays a massive part in that. If children aren’t happy then you can forget about learning. We want to support children here to become happy, confident well-rounded individuals. We want to track them on to Year Seven. With the skills and emotional development we work on, I’m hoping that the secondary schools that we feed into will say ‘that’s a Grove Road kid’ and that what we do here will start to have a noticeable effect on their future as they move forward.”
Using the principles of both Thrive and ReflectED, Christopher has written a new curriculum for the school with the aim of putting mental wellbeing and critical thinking skills at the heart of school life and creating an ethos that supports the unique child.
“Thrive and metacognition work together really well to create a love of learning that will stay with them throughout their lives. Values are something that are important to a lot of schools and they will have three to five words which sum them up but it doesn’t go any further. We really thought about our choice of words and what they mean for our children and we have made sure that these are embedded in our curriculum,” he said.
“We’re in the business of helping children. If we get good results on the way that’s great, but our business is supporting unique children and putting that at the centre of the curriculum.”