Stocksbridge Junior School is based on the outskirts of Sheffield and has 336 pupils with a three-form entry system. Although it was given a rating of Outstanding at its last Ofsted inspection, headteacher Samantha Gaymond (pictured right) wanted to do more to help pupils’ emotional and social development and she introduced Thrive as a way of helping them to become more resilient. Pupils are mainly white British and the surrounding community is described by Mrs Gaymond as being ‘on the cusp of social deprivation’ with just under 30 per cent of children in receipt of free school meals.
Thrive was introduced at the setting in September 2018 after Mrs Gaymond noticed that while pupils’ educational attainment levels remained high, teaching assistants were spending an increasing amount of their time supporting children’s social and emotional needs. “Our TAs were excellent – skilled and experienced – but instead of teaching and learning they were spending their time trying to manage dysregulated behaviour and it felt like the situation was getting worse with more children coming through that we were struggling to find the right provision for,” she said.
The school felt that children’s social and emotional needs were becoming more complex and that there was a role for it to play in terms of working with families so Mrs Gaymond started to look around at what was available to support this approach. The setting initially introduced learning mentors but found that this was a reactive, rather than a proactive, method with staff still engaged in troubleshooting rather than prevention.
Having heard about the Thrive Approach® through word of mouth, Mrs Gaymond spoke to a fellow headteacher who had introduced Thrive at her setting and learned more about the Thrive ethos and methodology as well as the benefits it brings. Mrs Gaymond then arranged to visit a school which was using the Thrive Approach to see for herself the difference it can make and to understand how the Approach should be implemented to get the best results.
Key to the roll out at Stocksbridge was Mrs Gaymond’s decision to undertake the Thrive Senior Leaders course in 2017. She went on the course in order to get an overview of the Approach and an insight into best practice for embedding it into the school. Attending the course convinced her that the first step in this process should be recruiting a teacher to lead on Thrive at Stocksbridge so that she could hand its day-to-day running over, confident that it was being taken in the right direction by someone who was passionate about wellbeing. Having recruited Jane Lea-Jones, (pictured left) who had not only completed the Thrive Licensed Practitioner training but is a Thrive trainer herself, the next piece of the jigsaw to fall into place was finding a Thrive room. When a former caretaker’s bungalow became available, this was immediately earmarked and has since been transformed into a calm, relaxed space for different activities.
In total, Stocksbridge now has three Licensed Practitioners, with the fact that Mrs Gaymond has undertaken the Senior Leaders training meaning that she the understanding of the ethos and methodology of the Thrive Approach needed to champion it – without having to get involved in its day-to-day practice. While completing the course did mean taking two days out of school, Mrs Gaymond believes that finding this time was worth it in order to get the most out of Thrive.
“I felt that I needed a deeper understanding of Thrive to be able to lead on it in school. I wanted to get it right and not to have it as an add on,” she said. “I can understand that a lot of SLTs would find it difficult to justify taking that time to do the training. Being head of a school means you are under a lot of pressure but I think that you have to be careful that Thrive isn’t just an add on. It’s about making a difference and if you’re going to do that then you have got to really get underneath it.”
All children are screened using Thrive-Online with group work and one-to-one work helping to plug the gaps in their emotional development. Licensed Practitioners are visible at the start of every day, with parents encouraged to approach them to talk about how their children are doing. They also form an important part of parents’ evenings so that emotional and social progress can be discussed alongside educational attainment. Stocksbridge Junior School has also introduced Family Thrive so that parents can get more involved and governors, too, have expressed an interest in receiving Thrive training.
Having started its journey with a clearly-defined need, Mrs Gaymond is convinced that embedding the Thrive Approach has been the right step in order to make real changes at the school. “I feel that we’re at the beginning of a journey but we have achieved a lot already. I have been absolutely blown away by how much we have been able to achieve in such a short space of time. Give us two or three years and Thrive will be fully embedded and all staff will have a deeper understanding of it,” she added.