Thrive has been at the heart of my practice for the last seven years and has heavily-influenced my approach when working, not only directly with children and young people across a range of age groups, but also when planning for school improvement. I am a Thrive Licensed Practitioner® and have worked with students across early years, primary and secondary settings, most recently as Deputy Headteacher of an all-through school in East Leeds catering for students aged from 5 to 16 years, where Thrive was used across school.
My understanding of the Thrive Approach® and the vital knowledge and tools it provides us with to help us support children and young people was so useful when welcoming 120 new Year 7 students each year who joined us from over 28 feeder schools. As you can imagine, entering high school is a big step and brings many mixed emotions, never mind meeting students from such a wide variety of settings and areas. Thrive helped me to understand what we needed to do in order to support these young people to feel safe and to ensure this process was as smooth and reassuring as possible. We adapted our school day to support this transition from primary to secondary school. So often, students are expected to leave primary school on their last day of Year 6 and enter high school only six weeks later on the first day of the new academic year knowing how to collate all their own resources, carry them around, navigate their way round a huge building independently and know how to cope with making new relationships with both children and staff, all whilst trying to cope with the increased level of independence that high school brings. Our approach was to gradually build up this independence, all whilst making sure students felt safe to explore, comfortable to ask for help and know who their key adults were with whom they could check in with. As the students would be seeing up to 15 teachers across the week, we incorporated weekly Thrive sessions to help them build strong relationships with their tutors as their key adult.
During the Covid-19 pandemic our school remained open for vulnerable students and the children of key workers. With a high percentage of pupil premium students , we continued to support a large number of students on site. Whilst we continued to teach the curriculum, both in person and virtually, we placed a huge emphasis on mental health and providing support for, not only students, but parents as well. Students and parents were experiencing something nobody in our lifetime had lived through - a global pandemic and national lockdown. Not to mention having to learn how to home school, navigate online work and keep little and big ones busy all day every day without being able to leave the house! We strived to ensure that students were still being encouraged to keep their mental health on a good level by incorporating activities such as daily walks, ensuring all work wasn't in front of a computer, weekly assembly check ins, taking into account each family situation and supporting anyway we could. For students who received Thrive support prior to the lockdown we ensured relationships were maintained by weekly phone calls, post cards home, online check-ins, doorstep visits, even if this was just a quick wave through a window to ensure they knew we were keeping them in mind. This made a huge difference when welcoming all children back into school. When students arrived back on site, we used to focus on mental health and support students when returning to school after such a long time away from the classroom. An example of this was using the Thrive-Online® screening tool to assess what level were working at and to focus heavily on their social, emotional and mental health needs to support them to transition back into the classroom and school life.
Thrive has changed and influenced my practice and immensely for the better and I would encourage all schools to take on the approach whether they are a primary, secondary, sixth form or special needs school.
By Andrea Cartwright, who has recently joined the Thrive® team as a Project Manager and was previously working as the Deputy Headteacher of a school in Leeds
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