The Thrive Approach


We have fully embraced Thrive at Churchward School.

Since the beginning, at Churchward School we understand that the emotional and social well-being is important for our young people to learn and thrive. As a school we always hold the emotional and well-being needs of our students at the heart of everything we do and, to support our students even further, we have a whole-school Thrive Approach.

What is the Thrive Approach?

The Thrive Approach is a dynamic, developmental, trauma–sensitive approach that supports the development of the social and emotional well-being of children and young people.

There are five building blocks that comprise the Thrive Approach:

  • Neuroscience
  • The theories behind the approach, including attachment theory and child development theory
  • Thrive-Online to support assessment, action planning and monitoring
  • Relational skills
  • Targeted Thrive activities

The aim of the Thrive Approach is an early identification of gaps on students’ emotional development and a way to equip them with tools for a secure stress-regulation system that should enable them to settle, to feel safe, to concentrate, to be curious and to be willing to work alongside their peers and work in collaborative ways.

How does the Thrive Approach work?

Thrive Approach uses a developmental model to help understand how we develop socially and emotionally from birth through adulthood. This model helps us to interpret children’s behaviours, identifying the needs and choosing the right intervention to meet those needs. It gives us the tools to understand why children and teenagers behave in the ways they do, and how parents, teachers and teaching assistants can support this development by providing the best experiences for the students at each stage. Thrive Approach helps us to better understand the student´s needs being signalled by their behaviour.

We also look at the importance of relationships. It doesn´t matter what we are trying to teach, it is always about meaningful relationships where we value the young person, show a genuine interest in who they are and put their well-being at the forefront of anything we are trying to do.

How are students and staff at Churchward School supported by the Thrive Approach?

Thrive uses an online assessment tool which creates planned practical strategies, techniques and activities. With the support of one Licensed Thrive Practitioner, Teaching Assistants complete a whole-class and individual assessment for each student to identify whose social and emotional age matches their chronological age, those who are functioning at a level slightly below their age, and those who would benefit from additional support.

These assessment enables the Licensed Thrive Practitioner and the Class Teacher to develop an action plan tailored to the stage of development of the students, drawing on hundreds of curriculum strategies and teaching suggestions that will feed into the whole class lessons/planning. Using the online tracking tools, we can chart results and monitor progress.

The action plans are reviewed every other term to see what has worked and what still needs to improve.

We base our relational approach using the VRFs (Vital Relational Functions) and following the PACE attitude (Playful, Accepting, Curious and Empathetic).

What happens in a Thrive session at Churchward School?

Thrive sessions may be run on a one to one basis, small groups or whole class, either in the teaching classrooms, Thrive room or even outdoors. Activities may include:

  • arts and crafts
  • sensory play
  • challenges/games
  • relaxation techniques
  • topic discussion

These planned activities are designed to meet the students’ needs and whilst building positive and trusting relationships can help the students to talk about their emotions and open up discussions.

Not knowing how to deal with stressful situations can lead to sadness, anger, fear, frustration, loneliness, etc. Young people may also present with more challenging or disruptive behaviour, and knowing that behaviour is

communication, the Thrive sessions help our young people to manage the reactions to their emotions and help them back on track by providing strategies to help them feel more emotionally secure, which in turn leads to building their confidence in learning at school.

Most schools have one, maybe two, but we have such a high number of young people who need Thrive-based interventions that we felt it was important to train as many people as possible. By the end of this academic year, Churchward School will have 5 Licensed Thrive Practitioners.