The Downs School is involved in a three-year initiative on Therapeutic Thinking that has been recently introduced across all schools in the West Berkshire Authority. This initiative complements the school’s existing behaviour policy and fits with our ethos of ‘Learning together, learning for life.’ Having completed a training programme, the school is now implementing therapeutic approaches to behaviours across the school.
What is Therapeutic Thinking?
Therapeutic Thinking was developed by Angela Wadham, an experienced professional in the field of child behaviour. Therapeutic Thinking recognises that some children have been unlucky enough to experience a range of Adverse Child Experiences (ACEs) and that children who have experienced higher numbers of ACEs are likely to have less positive outcomes in areas such as physical and mental health, behaviours, attendance, relationships and educational attainment.
Taking a therapeutic approach to learning is designed to reduce school exclusions and provide disaffected and anxious pupils with a more positive attitude towards school and themselves as learners.
How to we support this?
This approach complements our school ethos and supports the approach the school has taken for several years, giving a theoretical backing to what staff have known instinctively is the right way to support children who have had adverse childhood experiences which can then lead to poor behaviour. Therapeutic thinking is about creating a culture in which each student is given the help he or she needs to overcome those barriers to learning and achieve success, and can be complemented by more intensive therapeutic interventions.
Our staff and students deserve to work in a school where they are treated with courtesy and respect; therefore a cornerstone of therapeutic thinking is that every school’s behaviour policy must explain how to create a calm and safe learning environment for all members of the school community. Part of this includes having consistent (but not rigid) ways of dealing with pro and anti-social behaviours. The consequences given for bad behaviour are either developmental, for example helping the student to understand the impact of their behaviour, or protective, preventing them from behaving in anti-social ways until they receive the support they need that helps them to make better decisions.
Therapeutic thinking prizes the creation of positive classroom and extra-curricular experiences for students, which helps them to feel more secure and self-confident so they can better regulate their emotions which results in improvements in learning and behaviour.
Additional support for students
As a school we offer additional therapeutic approaches for children who need extra support including counselling from Time to Talk, Emotional Literacy support from trained in school ELSAs and additional pastoral support from Student Managers.
We do not see the benefits of excluding students, either short term or permanently and we have one of the lowest exclusion rates of secondary schools in the area by a significant margin. Therapeutic thinking supports this, which is one of the reasons why we support it.