By Louise Gumbley, Intervention Manager at New Heights School, in Liverpool, which has recently become a Thrive Ambassador School with Excellence in Environment
Since moving sites, in January 2018, our focus has been to make our new school into a welcoming place where pupils feel safe and heard. Our cohort consists of Key Stage 3 (Years 7 to 9) pupils who have been excluded, or are at risk of exclusion, from mainstream schools throughout Liverpool. Our aim is to form relationships, identify support needed for them to move on and succeed in their future education, and to help them gain the skills and strategies to do so.
Thrive is embedded throughout our school; from entering the foyer, where we have a weekly positive affirmations quote, through to every classroom, where you’ll find armchairs, weighted blankets, throws, cushions, mood lighting and chill out zones. With home comforts that, maybe, some pupils don’t usually experience and a relaxed work environment, we find pupils are more settled and receptive to learning.
Our 'feeling thermometer'
Every morning, as a check in, pupils add their initials to a ‘feeling thermometer’ which indicates anyone who is feeling off their baseline and needs a little bit more attention that day – we all have bad days sometimes! Those pupils who identify at a four or five on the thermometer are referred to myself to help them regulate, talk about whatever is bothering them, and get them in the right frame of mind for learning. It may be that they need some breakfast, a clean shirt or just someone to listen to them; whatever the need, we strive to meet it. We take a holistic approach to our pupils, as our belief is that a child with an unmet need is not able to learn to their full capacity.
Our designated Thrive room incorporates space for movement breaks and a safe, relaxing area for moments when that is needed, plus the added bonus of our emotional support dog, Beau, and therapy hamster Garlic Bread (named through a vote by our students!). Scheduled Thrive sessions with myself are protected as we know the importance of routine and for our pupils to feel important and heard. After a period of time at New Heights, pupils begin to recognise when they are becoming agitated or needing a time out of lesson to refocus. They also feel comfortable enough to ask any staff member for that time. At that point, either myself our one of our Behaviour and Emotional Support Team will accommodate this.
One of the main aims for our staff is to form relationships with the pupils based on mutual respect. We sit with our pupils for a break time snack and to eat our lunch. All of our pupils receive a meal, regardless of their Pupil Premium or Free School Meals status and we encourage ‘family dining’ to build up conversation skills and to work on those relationships. We are extremely proud of the relationships between staff and pupils at New Heights, and anyone who enters our school comments on this.
Our focus in Thrive this term is ‘kindness feels good’. We made some gifts of hot chocolate mugs and gave them to our local residents. We are now making ‘kindness rocks’, by painting some rocks and ‘hiding’ them in local parks to cheer people up. Our pupils are keen to take part and watching them feel good about themselves is very rewarding.
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