We believe that social and emotional well-being of our children at Willowbrook is a crucial part of helping children to be the best that they can be. All the staff are committed to supporting children’s happiness and developing character traits that will help them be successful both at school and in life. Our 5Rs and growth mindset ethos runs throughout our curriculum and we are building on this further this year through the Route to Resilience project. All staff and children are learning about the power of vocabulary and choosing our words carefully to help the children ‘exercise these character muscles’.
Our Whole School Offer
Teaching Character and mental wellbeing at Willowbrook Mead
This was the start of our thinking on behaviours for learning, behaviours for life. The 5 Rs were all about the behaviours we need to be good learners, both in school and in life.
Ready Robin, Resourceful Rhianna, Resilient Rory, Reflective Rachel, Responsible Ross all became terms staff used in the classroom, playground and assemblies. We had 5Rs days and children could earn badges for their lanyards.
Building on the success of the 5Rs, we had a welcome display in reception area to showcase our thinking. Children could talk about learning behaviours and identify their own strengths. 5Rs days became more detailed, elaborate and included parents…the learning pit, zones of comfort, extra reading material. Staff became more interested, researched and we shared ideas across the trust. We had a professional learning day on the Chimp Paradox which got us all thinking ‘more about thinking’ and how it impacts on our ability to learn. We delivered assemblies and PSHE sessions on the Chimp Paradox for the year.
Staff enquiry groups further explored learning behaviours and research on mindset. As a school, we made a broader shift towards ‘growth mindset’. We updated our central display updated to reflect the shift and again delivered assemblies on this theme. Our staff enquiry groups led to parent leaflets, parent workshops, visual prompts in every classroom, updated display, lesson observations focussed on growth mindset language. The pupil voice told us that the older children did not as well to the 5Rs but embraces the growth mindset language well. Introduction of Jigsaw as a PSHE scheme of work was selected as it aligned with our thinking on relationships and mental and physical health.
Following some work with Leicestershire and Rutland Sport, we came across the Route to Resilience project by Steve Harris. This was the start of the next phase in our journey. All the primaries in the trust embraced the project together. The focus was; Development of character, the power of vocabulary, character muscles. It was a whole school approach involving all staff, children and parents. We developed ways to empower lunch time supervisors, recognise and reward character champions, challenge a fixed mindset, learn about mental health support services and, most importantly, weave character education in to all aspects of the curriculum.
We teach character development at Willowbrook Mead! The 4 year journey we had been on culminated in a signficant shift in ethos, thinking, curriculum and communication with parents. The language had changed for staff and children. It had become ‘what we do’. We saw and heard changes….children coping with SATs much better, children showing courage and challenging themselves in assemblies, parents talking to us about character, support staff empowered, children in EYFS talking about resilience and perseverence.
We had a strong identity as a school that teaches character development by 2019. As a school always looking to improve and build on success, the staff embraced Andy Cope’s Art of Brilliance professional learning day. He introduced the concept of ‘hygge’ which led to the development of our hygge room-a space where anyone can go any time if they need support, comfort or to feel safe-staff and children!
Mental health and mental wealth awareness increased. 5 a day for mental wellbeing became a theme for assemblies and PSHE lessons. Acknowledging that ‘it’s ok not to be ok’ and skilling staff and children up in mindfulness techniques to support both teaching and learning.
How did our children cope? Did our work on character education and mental wellbeing help?
Yes, we absolutely believe it did. Through phone calls, engagement with remote learning and how well children returned to school, we could see their resilience and ability to adapt.
Watch this space ………………………..
Mental health and wellbeing…
We have a detailed ‘health and wellbeing offer’ for our children, with a number of interventions aimed at those who need more in-depth support. Our ‘Removing Barriers to Learning Team’, consisting of our own Family Support Worker, Behaviour mentor, SENCO and Inclusion support worker meet weekly to talk about the children on a case by case basis. We also have a ‘health and wellbeing offer’ for staff and we encourage staff to talk, share and have a self-awareness of their own character and wellbeing.
The role of sport….
We are a school that values and encourages sport for both our staff and children. We believe that physical and mental health are closely linked and therefore we invest heavily in both. We share and celebrate when staff set themselves personal challenges such a running marathons, charity cycle events and trying out a new sport. Resilience and determination are explicitly taught and modelled through sport.
Our ethos and curriculum….
Our school ethos has been updated to reflect the importance we place on character education. All policies, including our teaching and learning policies, have been updated to ensure that is permeates all that we do. Jigsaw, our scheme of work for PSHE, is also an effective tool for supporting this.
What have we seen?
- Children embracing sporting challenges and activities, e.g at the year 6 residential
- Children coping with SATs and formal testing with resilience and calmness, and therefore, doing their very best!
- Children presenting in assembly with confidence when they previously would not have done
- Children using words such as resilience, determination, empathy, kindness with each other
- Staff and children understanding and talking about their physical and mental health and how to improve it.
- Children and staff engaging in mindfulness independently.
- Children and staff seeking help and support when they need it.
The teaching of character is a skill for life and we will continue to ensure that this principal sits at the heart of Willowbrook Mead. As an outward looking school, we are always looking to improve and adapt to the needs of the children, the community and events around us. We are interested in research and new ideas, but at the same time know we have developed a carefully considered model that is right for our community. Open minded, but carefully considered in knowing what to take on board.
We continue to promote teaching of mental health and, through projects such as The Young Gentlemen’s Project that we are doing with a group of year 5/6 boys, we aim to shift perceptions of mental health, particularly with boys.
Our willingness to talk about mental health, will further equip the children to be happy and healthy young adults when they transition to the next phase of their lives.
Is it a National Priority?
Department for Education
“We can all recognise the attitudes, traits and values that are so sought by employers, parents and educators: persistence, integrity, curiosity, resourcefulness and so on.
These character traits not only open doors to employment and social opportunities but tend to underpin academic success and young people’s happiness and wellbeing as well.
The country’s leading state and independent schools demonstrate how a concerted focus on instilling these kinds of character traits throughout school life is the most effective model.” -DfE Stategic Plan
DfE Strategy 2015-2020
12 – Build character and resilience
Support schools to develop pupils into well-rounded, confident, happy, and resilient individuals to boost their academic attainment, employability and ability to engage in society as active citizens.
11 – Support & protect vulnerable children
Support schools to help children and young people build good mental health and access support where they need it.
5 – Embed rigorous standards, curriculum, and assessment
Ensure schools help all pupils progress, particularly stretching the most able pupils and supporting low attainers.
Future in Mind
- Promoting resilience, prevention and early intervention
- Improving access to effective support– a system without tiers
- Developing the workforce
“Many schools are developing whole school approaches to promoting resilience & improving emotional wellbeing, preventing mental health problems from arising and providing early support where they do. Evidence shows that interventions taking a whole school approach to wellbeing have a positive impact in relation to both physical health and mental wellbeing.”