Strategically embedding Therapeutic Thinking

Therapeutic Thinking in East Preston Infant School


East Preston Infant School is located in West Sussex. There are currently 256 pupils on roll. 19% of pupils are on the special educational need and disabilities (SEND) register, which is above national average. 10% of pupils are eligible for Pupil Premium, which is below national average.

At the most recent inspection in October 2019, Ofsted reported that ‘Pupils are well cared for at school. All staff have high expectations of pupils and encourage them to ‘be the best they can be’ in all areas of school life.’

Lucy Owens , Deputy Head, Inclusion Coordinator and Leader of Teaching and Learning, completed her Therapeutic Thinking tutor training in November 2020. Lucy talked about how the approach is embedded in the school.

Why did you want to take part in Therapeutic Thinking training?

We had identified changing needs within cohorts and wanted an approach that supported us to reduce physical interventions, supported children to be in school full time and made full consideration of children who had experienced trauma and adverse experiences. So many things that Angela Wadham said at the Therapeutic Thinking engagement day at Fontwell resonated. There were numerous things that made us really reflect on what we were doing and what we wanted to do. When she was talking about ‘Punished by Rewards’ by Alfie Kohn, we thought about the impact of our celebration assemblies and the rainbow system, both in place then. When coming back from the event we knew there were things we wanted to change.

What are the actions so far and how have they impacted?

I attended the training with a colleague and our first action was to use the audit activity to see where we were and what we needed to do. We took this to the SLT and created a strategic plan linked to our school priorities. For our first action we removed behaviour charts from classroom and celebration assembly and replaced stickers with Marvellous Me.

We overhauled the Behaviour Policy. This was developed with everyone involved, including MMS, teaching and support staff. This took time but there has been a real value. We committed to a series of meetings to define and agree key points with everybody contributing. We knew it had to work for us, so identified the behaviours we see as a school and developed agreed responses and approaches for support. This process took us over a year. We wanted to be sure we answered, ‘Is this our job description?’, ‘Will everyone been able to follow it?’, ‘ Does it represent our school?’.

We removed the rainbow systems and stickers and introduced the ‘Marvellous Me’ app as a change from previous public praise. The app allows us to still recognise and celebrate the children and their contributions. Parents now have a better understanding of what their child is doing well at school as the app allows staff to directly explain and share specific comments.

The Therapeutic Thinking one-day trainings have been really useful. Following attendance at ‘Principles of Emotional Literacy’ and in line with our whole school focus on developing language and literacy, we have developed ‘Feelings hubs’ in each classroom to develop emotional literacy for all of the children. We have introduced an emotions word of the week that is introduced, contextualised and explained. We have observed that children from reception are using advanced vocabulary and are able to identify and talk about how they and others are feeling.

We also created a booklet for parents to explain the approach and have an open-door policy towards conversations with parents who want to discuss further.

We have become more strategic in the way we use CPOMs and have linked our categories with our Therapeutic Behaviour policy. This supports analysis and planning of next steps. This analysis has supported us to start to develop a Behaviour Curriculum with school specific Behaviour Pathways.

As staff began to reflect on practice, we displayed the Therapeutic Continuum up in the corridors. Staff used this as a tool for reflection and discussion and prevented staff from second guessing themselves. We wanted staff to know that we still have clear boundaries.

We have implemented all of the toolkits, following an INSET day in which we introduced to staff. Through the day we encouraged them to have a child in mind. Staff agree that the anxiety analysis has helped us to really understand identified children and what next steps we could put in place. We ensure that all key adults are involved in use of the tools.

Therapeutic Thinking feels well embedded in our school. We regularly give time to staff to talk through our approaches, staff work with each other and have a voice. We have identified staff who need additional training and have induction plans which include Therapeutic Thinking. We have a buddy system for staff training, which includes staff identifying with a buddy about what they will do following training when they are in class. The following week they meet their buddy to share and have a coaching conversation.

When planning for transition we use the information from parents and preschools to create dynamics. One of the Reception classes has a trained Therapeutic Thinking tutor so we utilise this to create an identified dynamic. We have adapted this throughout the school, remaining flexible with groupings allowing us to adapt the provision. This approach is well considered and analysis identified a great impact from the adapted provision for the whole class Children are thriving and flourishing.

Therapeutic Thinking has made an impact for all children. Behaviour around the school is very good, incidents of RPI have reduced. We feel strongly that we have the provision right in the classroom. Children being supported 1 to 1 are in the classroom. Small garden provision is time-limited and carefully planned, with a planned ‘bridge’ back into the classroom. Across the school children say they love coming to school and want to be in school.


What are your next steps going to be?

  • Continuing to develop our behaviour pathways.
  • Deepen debrief training to support children and staff.
  • Positive play training with our MMS to support lunchtimes.
  • Gather further pupil views to measure impact and plan.

Top Tips

  • It is critical to take everyone with you, make sure everyone is involved and you have ‘the hearts and minds’.
  • Start with an audit- what are you already doing? What is your priority? Take time to plan your whole journey and how things will coordinate and come together.