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Maidenbower Junior School

Embracing Therapeutic Thinking at Maidenbower Junior School

Embracing Therapeutic Thinking at Maidenbower Junior School

In this Celebration of Inclusion, Maidenbower Junior School share their experience of the roll out and implementation of their new positive behaviour policy, using the Therapeutic Thinking Approach. Maidenbower Junior School was in the first cohort of West Sussex schools and settings to receive the training for this approach developed by Angela Wadham. The training for this approach is currently being rolled out by West Sussex County Council as part of the SEND and Inclusion strategy.

What is Therapeutic Thinking?

Therapeutic Thinking is a philosophy. It focuses on how all children and young people are supported, particularly in terms of their emotional wellbeing and mental health. The approach also helps to develop an understanding of how to respond to those who may be communicating through inappropriate behaviours. 

The Therapeutic Thinking approach is a school-led embedded ethos that is characterised by an inclusive culture, underpinned by best practice, policy and plans.  Therapeutic Thinking uses a range of resources to analyse an individual’s behaviour in order to better understand the child / young person’s needs.  This analysis then assists in better planning for the child, their class and the wider school or setting, to prevent difficult or dangerous situations from occurring by highlighting the learning or experiences that the child needs. For more information see the Therapeutic Thinking pages.


Maidenbower Junior School is a larger than an average-sized Junior school for children aged 7 – 11 years,  with 600 children and 90 staff. Pupils are taught in five parallel single-age classes in each year group. The proportion of pupils from minority ethnic backgrounds is below average. A very small number of pupils speak English as an additional language. The proportion of pupils known to be eligible for the pupil premium (additional funding to support children in local authority care and those known to be eligible for free school meals) is also below the national average. The proportion of disabled pupils and those who have special educational needs is just above the national average.

Maidenbower Junior have a Special Support Centre (The Launchpad), managed by the governing body. It provides specialist learning support for pupils’ with a diagnosis of Autism. It has spaces for 17 children.

Here, Head Teacher Elaine Jenkins talks about rolling this approach out

  • What were you trying to achieve? Why? What was the intended outcome?

Following a 3 day training course, key leaders were convinced that the therapeutic approach to behaviour was the right journey to take and reflected our school values and vision.  Our intended outcomes were to support our most vulnerable pupils and to develop children’s intrinsic motivation to make the right choices, taking away visual reward systems.  We wanted to work with individual children to use consequences as a learning opportunity and to eliminate punishments that result in negative feelings.

  • What did you do, who was involved, when and where did it take place?

After the training, two school leaders immediately set about developing an action plan that focussed us on the priorities and the longer-term plan.  We started by talking to some of our pupils about our current behaviour policy and systems and gathered some vital feedback from them which clarified our direction and gave evidence that has proved helpful in ‘selling’ some of the changes to staff.

Due to COVID restrictions, we rolled out initial training to small groups of staff.  We prioritised our Launchpad staff (our autism unit) and a specific year group who consist of some of our most challenging pupils as we felt some of the tools could be used straight away, e.g. the anxiety analysis, and inclusion circles.  Staff were immediately on board as they were given some tools that could support their work with pupils.

We held a half day virtual INSET and a virtual staff meeting to teachers to share the main information, vision and some useful resources.  Hosting these sessions virtually meant that it lacked the discussion that face to face would have generated, but the overall feeling was that staff were on board, with a few concerns that teachers shared.  We asked for everyone to have a go at what we were suggesting.

We held subsequent face to face training with groups of teaching assistants and PPA teaching staff.  Although repeating the same training was time consuming, it was more personal, generated more discussions and added clarity and depth to our delivery of the sessions. 

Our policy was then rewritten, taking into account our training and feedback from staff.  One of the biggest successes was creating a video to share with parents and governors to explain our vision for behaviour, procedures and reasons, and we have received really positive feedback about this. See the Maidenbower parent video here.

  • What difference has the practice made to staff, children and young people? How do you know? What data or indicators were used to support this?

Our most vulnerable children have had increased provision in their most difficult times of the day.  It is too early for data to show impact; however case studies of certain pupils show a reduction in anxiety levels and improved behaviour.  It is work in progress and some provisions or support have not had the desired impact, but there is clearly more support and awareness from staff.  There has been a noticeably consistent approach from staff in this.

What impact has the practice had on ‘every-day’ / operational practice within the wider school / setting?

Although it is too early to show impact the feedback from our pupils, staff and parents has been very positive. Here are just a few quotes:

Quotes from children:

‘I hated seeing my name on the sun because I once got teased about being a goody-goody.’

‘I got warnings then my name went on the cloud so that was it…what was the point of trying cos I knew I would be in.’

‘My teacher spends more time talking to me now and I like that.’

Quotes from teachers:

‘I now spend time thinking about and talking to individual children more to help them identify potential triggers and verbalise their thoughts and feelings.

I think they feel that I listen to them more.’

‘Our children have been taught the language of equality from ourselves, from their families and from society in general. This approach is more about equity – a hard concept for the children to understand, nevertheless it has been a good opportunity to show myself modelling this to them all. I find I have become more flexible and I can spot when a child needs support through a more individualised approach.’

‘My classroom is calmer. I would also say that anxiety levels have dropped simply because the sun and cloud visuals have gone.’

A parent Governor:

‘I wanted to mention that the new approach (to behaviour management) looks fantastic. What a lot of hard work for you all. When I spoke to my son about the changes, he said that he feels far less anxious not having names on the sunshine or storm cloud on display. Thank you MJS.’ 

What are the next steps for further development?

Our next steps are to refresh all staff with training in September so there is a shared expectation across the school.  Our new behaviour policy will be shared.  Inclusion circles are going to be completed on a regular basis and be used as part of transition.  Staff will be given a glossary of language to use to ensure our language is consistent and clear.

  • What are your ‘top-tips’ for another school / setting that wants to follow a similar approach?

Start with pupil voice – this tells you a lot, and it is hard to argue with changes that stem from children’s thoughts and experiences.

Don’t do too much at once.  Prioritise based on your needs.

Being transparent with parents.

Links to the West Sussex Inclusion Framework

The inclusive support at Maidenbower Junior School links to a number of Aspects and Dimensions within the west Sussex Inclusion Framework.

Within Aspect 3: Personal Development, Wellbeing and Welfare of Children, Young People and Staff

3.1 Social and Emotional well-being and self-awareness

  • There is an open and supportive atmosphere that promotes self-awareness and allows children and young people (CYP) and staff to reflect on their own emotional needs and triggers.
  • Staff and CYP well-being are promoted and supported allowing them to flourish.
  • CYP are given opportunities to share their feelings and emotions and these are acted upon by the adults within school.
  • The school curriculum is reflective of CYP needs and provides a universal curriculum for all CYP to develop all areas of social and emotional well-being and self-awareness.


  • Staff at all levels understand CYP’s behaviour in context, in terms of communicating or attempting to address unmet needs. Staff understand their role in co-regulating and developing CYP’s capacity to become independent, regulate their emotions and manage their behaviours effectively.
  • trategies to support CYP’s social and emotional needs, including those derived from a therapeutic thinking approach, are embedded within the classroom and used consistently across the school. CYP see these tools and structures as useful and purposeful tools. CYP’s needs are met such that they can remain in the classroom and learn effectively.
  • Staff do not assume CYP understand the language of emotions so use scaffolds to support their understanding and use language that supports co-regulation.
  • Staff understand the link between emotional regulation and readiness to learn and refer to the special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) when concerns arise.
  • Staff are aware of the risk factors for CYP in response to life events and at times of crisis that might contribute to social, emotional and mental health difficulties, e.g. trauma, Adverse Childhood Experiences, sensory dysregulation and attachment issues.
  • Social and emotional health and well-being of all CYP is monitored, and interventions are put into place to support CYP to develop their social and emotional needs. Outcomes are shared with parents.
  • The school works with parents to support the child’s emotional well-being, this is reflected within the school’s Relationship and Health or Relationship, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) and wider Education for Safeguarding curriculum (please refer to WSCC E4S) in line with statutory guidance.

3.4 Behaviour Policy and Procedures

  • The school balances the need for consistent implementation of behaviour policies with the need to make reasonable adjustments to meet the needs of individuals and the Equalities Act 2010.


  • Behaviour policies are personal to the school and reflects its uniqueness and provision. It encourages pro-social behaviours and allows for a range of approaches tailored to specific children and young people’s (CYP’s) needs and circumstances.
  • Staff, parents and CYP evaluate the impact of behaviour policies at a developmentally appropriate level. They can discuss positive and negative outcomes and can describe adaptations that have been made as a result.

Within Aspect 4: Quality of Education

4.5 Parental engagement in their CYP’s learning

  • Parent carers understand how their child is doing, what their child or young person (CYP) needs to do and what they can do to provide support.


  • The school offers workshops to develop parents’ understanding of different concepts and elements of school life and advises them of how they can further support their CYP at home.