Providing emotional support to improve pupil behaviour and wellbeing

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At Danescourt Primary School, staff support pupils to manage difficult emotions and challenging situations through a range of coping strategies. The school has also developed a behaviour management system that helps pupils to change their behaviour before things become too serious

Number of learners: 413
Age range: 3-11
Date of inspection: November 2016

Information about the school

Danescourt Primary School is in Llandaff, on the outskirts of Cardiff.  There are 413 pupils on roll between the ages of three and eleven, including the 64 pupils in the two part-time nursery classes.  The school has 13 full-time classes.  Around 8% of pupils are eligible for free school meals and the local authority looks after very few pupils.  Currently, 20% of pupils have additional learning needs, around 19% of pupils come from ethnic minority backgrounds and around 16% speak English as an additional language.  There were four fixed-term exclusions over the past school year.

Context and background to sector-leading practice

Following a recommendation from the previous Estyn inspection in 2010 to “further develop harmonious relationships”, the school has sought to cultivate an ethos of care and mutual respect.  The school considered the views of all stakeholders through well-being questionnaires.  Pupils, parents and teachers all felt that the general behaviour in the school was not as it should be. 

In 2012, the school changed its motto to “Learning, Growing, Thriving”; three words which weave through the fabric of the school’s ethos; the non-negotiable aspiration that “Danescourt Primary is a happy school where everyone is valued and inspired to give of their best,” is at the very heart of its well-being practices and strategies. 

Description of nature of strategy or activity

The school has aimed to improve pupils’ wellbeing and standards of attainment by providing high levels of emotional support for its pupils.  Staff support and enable pupils to manage difficult emotions and challenging situations through a range of coping strategies.  Emotional Literacy Support Assistants work very closely with pupils requiring such support and give them the tools to be able to settle into their learning and participate fully in school life.  A lunchtime provision called ‘My Space’ ensures that pupils who find it difficult to form friendships or play with others have alternative and supportive environment in which to thrive.

The school provides parenting courses, which are popular and attended well.  These provide parents with useful advice and support and cover a range of topics.  The school runs these courses in a designated space known as ‘Roots’; the name reflects the foundational role played by parents in pupils’ emotional welfare. 
Nurture groups are a strong feature of school life; each week, mixed-age nurture groups across key stage 2 and single year groups in the Foundation Phase meet with a designated teacher or teaching assistant and reinforce respect through a programme of discussion and activity. 

The school has developed its own behaviour system, known as ‘Tree Tops’, which takes the school’s emblem (a tree) and the core values of the school, and transforms them into the physical form of a behaviour chart in every classroom and learning space.  This serves as a visual reminder to the pupils and staff about what it is striving to accomplish; it allows plenty of opportunities to recognise, reward and celebrate positive behaviours and actions, and also allows pupils chances to modify or ‘restore’ their behaviour before things become too serious.  It focuses heavily on developing positive relationships between everyone in school.  Pupils each have a magnet with their name on it and every morning and at the beginning of the afternoon, they begin in the same place in the middle of the chart (middle of the tree) which states that they are ‘Ready to Climb’.  Most pupils strive to climb as high up on the tree as possible, thus reaching Tree Tops.  Some pupils who exhibit low-level disruptive behaviours will find themselves travelling down the tree but have many opportunities to redeem themselves and show that they are ready to climb again.  This is the key to success, as every pupil knows that they have the power to transform their behaviour.  Very few pupils continue to exhibit the same negative behaviours but those that do, or those who show dangerous or aggressive behaviour, may find themselves at the bottom of the tree known as ‘Back to Roots’.  This signals a need for more nurture, and teachers record such incidents and ensures that members of the school’s senior leadership team discuss these needs and agree ways forward. 

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

Teachers report that pupils are less likely to disrupt learning by displaying low-level behaviour and early feedback from parents has been positive, with many requesting to use Tree Tops strategies at home.

How have you shared your good practice?

The school has shared its strategies and resources with other schools in its cluster and staff share a common objective within the cluster to roll out these strategies across all feeder schools.