Supporting the social, emotional and mental health of children post-pandemic

Therapeutic Thinking in Westbourne Primary School

"We believe that Westbourne is a special place and the relationships we develop with our children and their families, enables us to create a distinctive ethos. We aim to make the learning experience varied and inclusive….Ours is a happy school where the success of every child matters."


Westbourne Primary School is situated on the West Sussex and Hampshire border.

It is a single form entry school with 208 pupils on roll.
The Ofsted report (November 2017), states that, ‘Parents praise how well all staff show care for their children’s well-being. Parents value the way in which their children develop socially, emotionally and academically’ and that ‘Pupils are proud to belong to the school and play an active role in its smooth running.’

The Deputy Headteacher and SENCO, Laura Sibley and Class Teacher, Debbie Farcinsen talked about rolling out the Therapeutic Thinking approach following their attendance at the 3 day training delivered by Angela Wadham.

Why did Westbourne Primary School want to take part in Therapeutic Thinking training?

We wanted to be able to further support the social, emotional and mental health of our children, particularly following the period of disruption from Covid-19. The approach aligns perfectly with our focus on wellbeing, which we feel passionately about, and with the long-term journey for our school. It was an added bonus that it would also allow us to be in line with county to ensure a shared language and understanding.

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

We have developed a draft ‘user-friendly’ Behaviour Policy to implement from September and have planned in a review after six weeks with all staff. We have carefully considered how we want the policy to inform and support practice and have included new developments such as positive consequences and scripted language to guide adults in school, with the caveat that staff use this alongside their knowledge of the children. The experience of rewriting this policy has impacted our other policies in school too as we now aim to publish them all in a more user friendly style.

We have developed use of the Therapeutic Thinking tools which has been very beneficial. The flowchart has been integrated into our planning and we now use this to identify what steps we need to take to best support our children. By following the flowchart we have reduced paperwork and developed our confidence in the process for supporting our pupils.

The Early Prognosis tool has been used to support transition and has impacted on the quality of conversations and planning for September.

The Therapeutic Tree has helped us to further identify areas of need and to develop protective consequences within provision for individuals and groups. We now have a small number of children with targeted individual plans in place to support them more effectively. This has also impacted the development of enhanced nurture provision which has been extended to cater for more children.

Parents have voiced that they can see that the protective and educational consequences are helping their children.

We have begun to develop a shared language and understanding across the school. Staff are thinking more about the possible reasons behind behaviours, and that while some behaviours may not be acceptable, they are understandable. The approach has helped the wellbeing of everybody. The shared language and tools have supported conversations with external professionals to promote appropriate support and understanding.

The approach has further given children a voice and we want to continue to develop this. Recent pupil voice gathered from the children stated that:

‘We always feel like the teachers listen’
‘Teachers want to talk to us’

Pupils said that they were confident to question things that they don’t understand, need help with or make them feel unsafe – they feel they have been given a voice. They are beginning to talk about ‘how to make things right and better’. Staff have been using the language of equity to help children understand that we may need different things or support to help us achieve.

What are your next steps going to be?

We plan to embed the policy, with time planned in for regular reviews.

Further develop the language the children are exposed to and use, to develop their emotional literacy and agency and support them to be pro-social members of society. We are planning to introduce a ‘Feelings Wall’ and targeted assemblies.

We are exploring how we can further communicate the approach with our whole community, including parents and governors, such as through new- starter and Parent Forum meetings.

Top Tips

  • Train all staff in school in the approach so it embeds in the culture of the school.
  • Support staff who are on different stages of the journey, plan in time to discuss and reflect.
  • Be open with the children; explain to them and encourage them to be inquisitive and ask questions.
  • Share the approach with parents to ensure a shared understanding.

Links to West Sussex Inclusion Framework

Within Aspect 3: Personal Development, Well-being and Welfare, particularly aspects 3.1, 3.2 and 3.4.