Perry Wood Primary and Nursery School has 427 pupils and is based on a housing estate in a deprived area of Worcester. It has a higher–than–average number of pupils who are classed as disadvantaged. Perry Wood started its journey with the Thrive Approach® four years ago. At the time, the school was struggling to manage behaviour, exclusions were on the rise and its last two Ofsted inspections had rated it as ‘Requires Improvement’. Thrive® was introduced as part of a drive to turn this around. Perry Wood has recently been named as Thrive Ambassador School with Excellence in Environment, Leadership, Right-Time and Reparative.
Over the last four years, Perry Wood has seen a huge drop in fixed term exclusions, from 48 to one. Attendance has increased from 93.7 per cent to 95 per cent and referrals to external agencies have dropped from seven to one. The school was rated ‘Good’ at its last Ofsted inspection, in 2019, with inspectors praising pupils’ behaviour and attainment, in particular.
“The impact of Thrive has been amazing – we can really see the progression,” said the school’s Thrive Lead Lisa Kelly. “Our exclusion rate has dropped off the page and we have seen a massive improvement in behaviour.”
Perry Wood has two Thrive Licensed Practitioners who have trained other staff in the basic principles of the Approach. All staff have embraced Thrive and it is embedded throughout the school day in assemblies, break and club times as well as lessons, where it is written into the curriculum. Thrive also underpins the school wellbeing committee, which supports the wellbeing of pupils, staff and parents.
“Wellbeing has distinctly improved because of the work we do with the Thrive Approach and, as a result, our attainment levels have also gone up – it all works hand in glove,” added Lisa.
Thrive practitioners work with individual pupils and small groups to focus on identified targets. A key part of this is the regular use of the Thrive-Online™ (TOL) monitoring tool which enables practitioners to identify children’s needs and to track their progress. All the children in school have weekly Thrive sessions and, for those who are identified as having unmet needs, small group or one-to-one Thrive sessions are put in place to help them to catch up with their peers. Each classroom has an A3 folder displaying its Thrive action plan as well as examples of children’s work as they complete activities. All staff receive in house training on devising action plans, which are then used as the basis for weekly Personal, Social, Health and Economic education lessons and updated termly.
“Doing TOL screenings as often as we do enables us to make sure no one is slipping through the net. Even if it’s just a one–off wobble, we can still pick it up and we will then profile a child on their own and set up a plan to help them. Our approach is always to get to know every child and to give them as much support as they need,” added Lisa.
Having Thrive embedded into the culture of the school and using TOL so effectively has been beneficial during the disruptions of the Covid-19 pandemic. Lisa used the school’s online communication platform to send supportive messages and activity suggestions to parents as well as using phone calls and online meetings to maintain contact with pupils. As a result, she was able to develop her relationship with children – and was even able to identify and support one child who developed an eating disorder during lockdown.
“I have got an amazing relationship with the children. I love them to bits and they know that they can knock on my door at any time and I’m there for them. Thrive has helped us to support every one of our children and it’s made a big difference with their behaviour. We had one cohort, in particular, a couple of years ago that were regarded as being quite challenging but we have been on a real journey with them and they are totally different now,” she said.
The Thrive Approach has now been embedded into the school with all staff given an understanding of its principles and key techniques plus a regular Thrive slot on the agenda at staff meetings. New and supply teachers are made aware of individual action plans, as required.
In addition, children are also given a basic understanding of the Thrive Approach, with some youngsters selected to be playground buddies who look out for peers who may be struggling. These children are taught, in simple terms, about the Thrive Vital Relational Functions (VRFs) so that they can help their friends to contain and regulate their emotions.
“I’m so proud of those children,” said Lisa. “I saw a child comforting a friend using the VRFs the other day and she was so happy afterwards because she had understood why someone was struggling and she had been able to help them.
“School is a real home-from-home for our children. They come in through the gates and they feel comfortable and safe. They understand boundaries and they know what is expected of them. Children here don’t just walk past you with their heads down – they smile, they make eye contact and they say ‘good morning’. That comes from the confidence and the self-esteem that they have been taught here in school because of Thrive.”