Therapeutic Thinking in a secondary school

Therapeutic Thinking in Thomas Bennett Community College (TBCC)


TBCC is part of the TKAT multi-academy trust and sited in Crawley. It caters for students aged 11 to 18 and there are approximately 1,200 students on roll. Approximately 40% of the students are eligible for the pupil premium grant, above national levels. The school has a Special Support Centre with up to 20 students with an EHCP where the students’ main diagnosis is Autism.

The school is one of 10 secondary schools who have undertaken the three-day training in the Therapeutic Thinking approach currently adopted by West Sussex County Council. Two members of staff attended the November cohort and have rapidly engaged the whole school community with development and roll out of the key messages within this programme.

Why did the Academy want to take part in Therapeutic Thinking training?

TBCC had high numbers of suspensions and permanent exclusions compared to West Sussex and national data and wanted to address this. Both members of staff are relatively new to the school and want to make significant changes to how behaviour is supported as well as to increase student engagement and decrease internal truancy. In addition, they want all staff to have techniques to support behaviour using a consistent approach. A general aim is for students and staff to have an overall positive experience in class.

The entire pastoral and inclusion team are very engaged with the approach as they are highly supportive of the students and are passionate about promoting positive outcomes. There is an agreement that the Therapeutic Thinking approach matches the values of the school.

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

Immediate actions focussed on training all pastoral staff in the approach and they were given an INSET day covering the underpinning themes and the resources and toolkits to use with individual students.

All staff have had an overview of the approach and are starting to understand the Therapeutic Thinking model. There are planned changes to the behaviour policy that will be implemented over time and in consultation with the whole school community.

Detentions are being replaced by restorative conversations. The outcome of this is that staff are seeing the building and re-building of relationships as supportive to positive engagement in lessons for those key students.

Pastoral staff have started to use aspects of the toolkit with some individuals, such as the anxiety analysis tool, and are starting to gain a much more thorough understanding of students’ needs and triggers in order to put in place effective strategies.

An immediate impact has been that the number of suspensions has reduced by 75% and this is due to staff using alternative ways to put in place protective and educational consequences.

Fewer students are accessing The Bridge due to being removed from lessons as they are coping better in class. They are better able to articulate their feelings, appear happier and are able to communicate better with staff.

A small number of students on part-time timetables are now able to attend full time.

What are your next steps going to be?

Further training for staff in the form of workshops. Staff will be given support to discuss the approach and consider how best to alter or tweak their practice to fit with the underlying principles.

Review the behaviour policy to reflect changing practice. This will take place in the summer term when the new Assistant Head for behaviour has joined the school.

Ongoing development of The Bridge as a place to support students and aid prevention of difficulties instead of this being a place for sanctions. The resources and toolkit will be used to identify the needs of and support more students over time.

Any advice to other secondary schools in the county considering the approach?

TBCC are willing to share their experiences with other secondary schools in West Sussex and have been invited to key events to do so.

Their main messages include the Therapeutic Thinking training being very good value for money and that the resources provided are very useful for individuals. Rolling out across a large secondary school will take time and commitment and planning for this is imperative. However, the significant benefits seen in a very short time mean that the approach has been the right one for the academy.

Links to West Sussex Inclusion Framework

There are clear links to the inclusion framework with Aspect 3: Personal development, wellbeing and welfare, specifically in aspect 3.1 Social and emotional wellbeing and self-awareness.