A Cornish primary school which was failing when its headteacher first took up his post has been named as a Thrive School of Excellence for the role it plays in supporting the wellbeing of its pupils in order to help prevent mental health issues.
Liskeard Hillfort Primary School, was named as a School of Excellence after going through a rigorous assessment process with Thrive®, an organisation which trains teachers and other education professionals to support the social and emotional development of children and young people. The award recognises extraordinary schools which are making a positive impact on their pupils, and on the wider community, by prioritising emotional wellbeing.
The school has 399 pupils and has been on a mission to improve attendance, staff morale, behaviour and attainment levels since Headteacher Dr Tim Cook joined six years ago. To achieve these changes, he has prioritised children’s emotional wellbeing using the Thrive Approach® so that pupils are now calmer, happy to be in school and ready to learn. As a result, fixed-term exclusion rates have fallen to zero, from a high of 35 days in an academic year; parental approval for the school stands at 100 per cent; pupil numbers have risen across all year groups and a recent Ofsted monitoring visit praised improvements to its maths and phonics outcomes.
“The school I stepped in to six years ago was inadequate, for a variety of reasons. Thrive has been the foundation for much of our improvement work. It has helped us to create really strong relationships that have changed everything at the school and it has given staff a clear understanding of the neuroscience that underlies a lot of behaviour,” said Dr Cook.
“In my professional opinion, you can’t progress more sophisticated things like phonics, reading and writing if a school is like the Wild West. Thrive’s principles and practices have helped us to identify individual needs and to respond accordingly so that our children feel settled and ready to learn. We would have been in the mire without it.”
Liskeard Hillfort Primary School has a sensory room and a Thrive ‘home room’ where children can take a break and seek out adult support, if they need it. There is also a Thrive lunch club and trained staff perform gate duty every day where they greet pupils and help them to feel happy and safe to be at school. Using Thrive’s online monitoring and planning tool, staff assess the mental health of each class, creating individual action plans for any children they are concerned about.
“We have families that have been affected by Covid and we have families that are having to choose between heating and eating so, if we want school to fulfil its primary function, which is to help children to learn, we have to make sure that our children have had something to eat and are emotionally able to sit and listen in a lesson,” added Dr Cook.
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 evidence and impact application form, the school was visited by Thrive staff to observe and assess the way that teachers and other staff implement the Thrive Approach to help build the emotional resilience of children— so they can better manage the ups and downs of life and be more open to learning.
Liskeard Hillfort is a fantastic example of a school that has placed mental wellbeing at the centre of everything it does and it has made some inspirational changes as a result. Relationships between staff and pupils are incredibly strong and it has created a culture of wellbeing that means children feel calm, emotionally-regulated and ready to learn. The school really deserves to be recognised in this way and richly deserves its School of Excellence Award,” said Rose Webb, Thrive’s Regional Development Manager and Trainer for Wales and the South West.
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