Heath Farm School, in Kent, is a Special Educational Needs setting with 106 pupils, aged from five to 18, on roll. Some pupils have autism while others have emotional and behavioural difficulties or have experienced trauma, creating a disruptive atmosphere that could then further compound the difficulties pupils were experiencing. While most pupils attend school full-time, a few work on a therapeutic education plan basis, which means they attend school on a part-time basis. The school introduced the Thrive Approach® in 2015 after an SLT member went on a Thrive® course and recommended embedding it in the school. Learning Support Assistant Nina Jones completed her training in 2016, and the school now has four Thrive Licensed Practitioners®. Heath Farm uses the Thrive Approach to focus on the social and emotional wellbeing of pupils who are then ready to engage with learning.
Initially, Nina ran timetabled Thrive sessions as part of class lessons across the whole school. She extended this to start working on a 1:1 basis with those children who have the greatest need with group Thrive assessments taking place every term to track progress. Pupils are referred for daily Thrive sessions by teachers, and as positive results have been observed, there is now a waiting list of children to have Thrive input. A member of the class teaching team is present during Thrive sessions so that they can take strategies back to class, using a consistent approach to help children regulate their emotions.
As more Licensed Practitioners have been trained and more space has been made available for Thrive activities, Nina is now working on embedding Thrive across the school, with a practitioner working with class groups to deliver wellbeing sessions.
“The children love their Thrive sessions and it’s something that definitely works. Thrive has helped the wellbeing of our school grow, we have seen amazing effects on our children and nothing gives us greater joy than knowing how we have turned some of our pupils’ lives around with the Thrive Approach,” said Nina.
Heath Farm uses the Thrive Approach at two levels – universal and enhanced. In the universal sessions, children are profiled using the monitoring tool Thrive-Online™ (TOL) in class groups, with 1:1, enhanced sessions then brought in for any child who is identified as having gaps in their social and emotional development. These assessments can also be discussed with social workers and families to map progress and to arrange further support, if needed.
“We do have some challenging children here and, as a result of Thrive, staff can see that children who were not accessing their education are now much more settled in class. They are regulated and able to access their education. Due to the complex needs and the varied programs of study and educational pathways our students experience at Heath Farm School, it is very difficult to evaluate the exact positive impact through attendance data over the years. It is clear, however, that the Thrive Approach supports individuals’ transitions into our provision and enables them to build and in time, secure resilience and coping skills,” said Nina.
All new staff at Heath Farm have a Thrive induction to make them aware of the principles of the Approach and staff using different strategies and interventions are able to work effectively together to support children. This means that Licensed Practitioners work closely with forest school staff, the speech and language therapist, occupational therapist and play and drama therapists.
Workshops have been run to give parents an insight into the Thrive Approach and Heath Farm has started to run Family Thrive sessions, a six-part course for parents and carers. The idea is to help families to support their children’s mental and emotional health and to extend the Thrive Approach into the home, as well as embedding it in school.
“As a school, we liaise with families very well and, if we feel they need more support at home, then the Thrive assessment has a plan that we can share with parents and carers. We’re always looking to pick up if children are distressed or in need as quickly as we can so that we can put the right support in place for them,” added Nina.
The foster carer of one pupil said: “The impact that the Thrive sessions at Heath Farm have had on my young lad is huge, to say the least. It has helped him manage and reflect on his behaviours. Thrive also helps him to understand his emotions a lot better so that he can re-organise how he is feeling emotionally and this is a massive step forward for him.
“One thing he can now do on his own is take time out and come back to say he was sorry or to say he is ready to carry on without the meltdowns. This then goes hand-in-hand with having more time to learn new things. As this can be hard for my lad as he is Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but with the Thrive sessions we have seen a marked improvement in him, not just at school but also at home as well.”
Because of the way that the Thrive Approach has been embedded across the school and the results it has achieved, Heath Farm has been named as a Thrive School of Excellence.