Effective strategies support the social and emotional wellbeing of pupils

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focus group

Staff at Redhill Preparatory School place emotional intelligence as priority. The school has implement strategies to support the social and emotional wellbeing of pupils through questionnaires and self-registration, skills sessions and pupil-led focus groups to discuss any concerns openly.


Number of pupils: 90
Age range: 3-11
Date of inspection: April 2018

Context and background to the effective or innovative practice

Staff at Redhill Preparatory School place emotional intelligence as a high priority.  They are aware of the importance of pupils being socially and emotionally balanced to be happy and successful learners.

Through observation, questionnaires and focus groups, staff became aware that the emotional and social resilience of pupils was being adversely affected by the modern world.  Nationally there is a growing evidence of poor resilience amongst pupils of all ages resulting in poorer mental health within schools and in later life.  Leaders of Redhill Preparatory School decided to make even greater efforts to support the social and emotional needs of all pupils in order to promote greater mental health through improving emotional intelligence.

The school re-energised its current practices of circle time, ‘Big Friendly Giant’ groups, and pupil questionnaires specific to social and emotional wellbeing.  Staff also added new initiatives such as emotion self-registration, skills sessions specific to social and emotional wellbeing, plus support mechanisms outside the classroom such as ‘Paramedics’.  In addition, several staff gained counselling certificates and leaders employed a trained counsellor to offer one to one support to pupils.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

Circle time has become a highly valued whole school initiative.  The session is timetabled across the school at the same time.  This ensures that its value is understood and appreciated by staff and pupils.  Staff see this session as just as important as core subjects.  They ensure that all pupils feel valued during weekly circle time sessions and organise an open and honest forum where all pupils have the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings.  As a class, pupils engage with each other to identify differences, difficulties and find practical and appropriate strategies to help all pupils feel that they belong and are valued by the group.  Circle Time helps staff to know their pupils well and provides a closer network of support that nurtures positive working relationships.

Big Friendly Giants lead the whole school during a weekly assembly.  Each group has a leader, usually a prefect from Year 6, and pupils from each class to make a ‘family’.  These mixed-age family groups encourage belonging.  Each session begins and ends with an animated recital of the school motto – ‘Working, caring, sharing and learning, hand in hand, to be all we can be.’  Teachers base sessions on emotional and social wellbeing learning objectives and bring the school community together in fun and engaging activities.  There are opportunities for pupils to recap on whole school initiatives, which improve social and emotional wellbeing, for example the ‘worry box’, mind-sets, learning styles or ‘what to do if you are being bullied’.  Pupils help and support each other during these activities and this closeness to their peers becomes apparent in their relationships and improved confidence outside of the sessions.

Questionnaires and self-registration.  All pupils register each morning and afternoon using emotion colours, characters or emotion words.  Pupils can change their emotion registration throughout the day.  Staff make a note of any negative emotions and find time to ascertain the reasons behind the pupils’ choice.  Often the issue is resolved immediately.  However, staff address more complex issues by allocating time later in the day, sharing with parents or referring to the school counsellor.  Staff also use a variety of questionnaires with all pupils to help identify and track pupils’ social and emotional wellbeing.  They recognise that pupils who have poorer self‑esteem and self-respect are likely to feel worthless, bullied and persecuted and that they need support to develop more positive thinking.

Skills Sessions. These are three short weekly sessions for all junior pupils.  Pupils take part in a variety of activities according to their needs.  These include traditional sessions such as academic booster sessions and More Able and Talented sessions, but there are also opportunities to address wider needs such as touch typing, ‘mindfulness’ training or emotional intelligence training.  The activities are highly personalised to improve pupils’ skills.  This impacts positively on improving many pupils’ self-esteem, which in turn leads to greater self-respect.

‘Paramedics’ is a self-help group named by the pupils.  It is a weekly session that any pupil can attend.  Pupils can refer themselves or friends.  They meet with a staff member, eat snacks and take part in mixed aged circle time sessions.  They ‘cure’ themselves of worries, being shy, scared or angry by taking part in specific activities.  The teacher, with counselling knowledge, acts as a facilitator, but the sessions are mainly pupil led with pupils finding their own answers.  Many pupils who attend improve their capability to recognise their own emotions and those of others, separate different feelings and label them appropriately.  They use this emotional information to guide their thinking and behaviour, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments.  Pupils can also access the school’s 1:1 counselling service.  This is highly beneficial for pupils if they face a crisis, such as bereavement.

What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?

The school’s analysis of pupil questionnaires shows that staff identify pupils’ social and emotional needs at an early stage and their needs are more readily met.  By the school recognising the needs of all pupils, they have reduced many barriers to learning, which leads to an improvement in outcomes.

Pupils are better listeners, have gained a greater understanding of themselves and of others, and are more empathic.  They are more open and honest and their needs more transparent, which enables them to get the support they need more readily.  Dealing with issues immediately allows pupils to get on with their work by moving on emotionally.  Pupils become understanding of themselves and more ‘socially interested’ in others.  Pupils feel empowered to want to step-up and make a difference to their own lives as well as to others’.  For example, junior pupils are making efforts to change the law in regards to protection for service dogs.  

How have you shared your good practice?

The school has been invited to share their effective practice by speaking to similar providers on how the school ensures a culture of wellbeing for all.  Staff have shared specific initiatives with another local school, for example on how to create a calm learning environment that is socially and emotionally friendly to pupils with specific needs.