Gemma Wall, Headteacher at Catch22’s Include Wales independent school, explains how the Circle Time approach has improved the mental wellbeing of learners.
At Include Wales, we are of the opinion that social competence contributes to our quality of life, as our lives are based on the foundations of positive relationships and interactions with those around us. For us, relationship skills, social skills, identity and self-esteem/self-worth are all interconnected. When getting to know our learners and understand who they are, it was clear that all learners had significant communication/social skills difficulties.
Impact of COVID-19 pandemic
When returning to school in September 2020 we were aware of the significant impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on people’s physical and mental wellbeing. Therefore, it felt natural to us to want to do as much as we possibly could to help our learners heal, improve and maintain their physical and mental wellbeing.
The physical wellbeing of our learners was already planned and catered for with our weekly Physical Education sessions. As such, it was decided that the most appropriate approach with regards to the improving and maintaining the mental wellbeing of our learners was to use ‘Circle Time’.
Circle Time is timetabled to take place during the first lesson every morning. Learners take it in turns to tell the group (currently 8 learners and 3 staff) what emotions they are feeling that morning, and to explore why they are feeling these emotions. The group are then invited to offer advice and/or solutions to the individual concerned. Towards the end of the session learners then set real world targets for themselves, for their time in school and at home.
By giving learners agency and a voice (that many are often denied or do not have access to) with which to share with each other how they are feeling, and why they feel that way, we have seen an increase in the self-esteem, a sense of responsibility, and improved speaking and listening of our learners. This has not only had a positive impact on peer to peer relationships, but also on learner-staff relationships. Learners are being taught the tools to respect themselves and others and how to heal relationships. This has created a fantastic amount of mutual respect amongst all involved at our school which is evident for all to see.
Improved mental wellbeing
A real sense of acceptance, belonging, community, inclusivity, pride and security has been cultivated. Learners have developed a greater insight into each other’s lives, as well as the lives of staff, improving the mental wellbeing of all involved.
It’s good to talk.