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Milton Mount

Supporting individual pupils using Thrive and Therapeutic Thinking approaches

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Milton Mount Primary School was nominated as a result of their participation in the Inclusion Strategy Wellbeing Survey in which the Milton Mount Team shared their wellbeing provision. The school has built upon its Thrive approach foundations with the introduction of Therapeutic Thinking strategies. Through the use of these whole school approaches pupils have developed the skills to become ‘safe’ learners and reintegrate back into their classes.

The small learning group has been amazing for my child, the positive shift in his frame of mind has resulted in him comfortably coming into school, and the reduction in his anxiety has helped him complete Maths and English tasks without distress.

The overall reduction in his anxiety has a positive impact across all areas of his life, since starting the group he has started to contribute to the small group discussions, participated in a PE session, accessed more afternoon topic learning in the classroom and more readily joined in with family games and cycle rides. Seeing what my child can achieve and how good he feels when he has the right support is such wonderful thing to see.

Parent of a learning group child



Milton Mount Primary School is a large three form entry school with nearly 630 pupils aged 4-11 years. Each year group has a Team Leader and a team of teachers and support staff. Prior to attending the WSCC Therapeutic Thinking training, the school used a whole school Thrive approach and employ a full-time Thrive practitioner. The Thrive approach was introduced to the school through a whole school trauma and attachment training delivered by Beacon House, a specialist therapeutic services a trauma team.

At the end of 2019, school representatives attended a one-day familiarisation training on Therapeutic Thinking and used their understanding from this to further develop their wellbeing provision.

For me it represents a safe learning space where the children can progress at the same speed and in line with the rest of the children, allowing them the option to return to class when they feel comfortable, knowing they have the learning group to go back to when necessary.

Class Teacher


Good Practice Explained

The school first identified a small group of learners who struggled to self-regulate and engage with their learning, which often impacted on the learning of their peers. These pupils did not have a special education needs and disability (SEND) profile. Their lack of engagement had a negative impact on their academic progress. 

The Milton Mount team began to use the Thrive baseline measure and the Boxall profile to develop an understanding of what may be underpinning these pupils’ difficulties.  The school used these baseline measures to identify the support the pupils needed.

The group continued through to the next academic year, with staff implementing Thrive action plans for each individual, identified from the social and emotional development needs highlighted through the screening tools. The aim of this approach was to develop the pupils’ emotional resilience and integrate them back into their classes.

Following their Therapeutic Thinking training, the team set up a dedicated learning group allowing the children to access core subject learning in a low arousal environment with high adult to child ratios (2:5). This approach allowed therapeutic interventions to be implemented effectively. Children follow a personalised timetable including scheduled sensory breaks and learning is chunked into manageable tasks. The group is supported with explicit work on managing anxiety and developing resilience, as well as inclusion in LEGO-based therapy groups.

The children in the learning group gain confidence quicker in a smaller group setting. Each child’s individual needs are specifically catered for as we’ve learnt their requirements and triggers by being in a smaller group. The learning group children can learn at their own pace without the demands of keeping up in class. We can take regular breaks as and when we feel the children in the group need it. We can go off piste and work on other areas required like anxiety, friendships, resilience etc.

Children are coping better with difficult situations.

– Able to work better with other children.

– Better behaved generally.

– Improved attendance.

– Less extreme behaviours

– Much happier to come into school.

Learning Group Teaching Assistant


Here the school SENCOs describe their changed approach to supporting pupils and its impact across the school:

What difference has the practice made to staff and pupils?

The adults supporting the pupils in the learning group have mainly focused on developing the pupils’ executive function skills and teaching them self-regulation strategies. It has also enabled them to make academic progress as they are ready to learn. Teaching staff have been able to focus their time on teaching rather than dealing with dysregulated groups of pupils. Teachers have been able to build positive relationships with these pupils when relationships have previously broken down.

After over a year of trialling this way of teaching, we are pleased to see that unsocial and antisocial behaviours* have reduced and that some of the group are making good to excellent academic progress. They are able to integrate back into the classroom and maintain emotional regulation.

* Unsocial and antisocial behaviours are Therapeutic Thinking descriptors to support staff to identify the functions of behaviours and then teach prosocial alternatives.

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

Throughout the school, the implementation of the learning group has enabled other staff members to think differently about supporting children who present with unsocial or antisocial behaviour through the deployment of teaching assistants and the importance of quality first teaching.

This new approach for supporting these pupils has also freed up time for the Senior Leadership Team and SENCOs who were previously called throughout the day to support with antisocial or unsocial  incidents.

We recognise that these learners still deserve the best from their class teachers and there continues to be a focus on developing positive relationships whether they are in the class or not.

Has the practice had impact on the school’s strategic development?

As a school our deployment of teaching assistants has changed and has become more focused on the needs of specific pupils and the skills of the teaching assistants. Our teaching assistants are more fluid in their approach to supporting pupils and there is no longer a culture of ‘1 teaching assistant per class’.

We recognise that all children have different needs. For some children progress can be made by quality first teaching in a calm and caring learning environment. For others, a bespoke timetable is needed to address their emotional needs, in order to make progress. By developing this method of teaching throughout the school it has enabled learners to develop at their own rate whilst allowing others to succeed in the classroom.

What are the next steps for further development?

The aim of the learning group has always been to develop safe learning behaviours so they can spend increasing amounts of time engaging with learning in their classroom, alongside their peers.

Throughout this summer term, the children are moving back to their classroom for core subject lessons where they feel comfortable to and the adults feel that this is a benefit for them.

The independent island is used when a member of the learning group begin presenting with consistent prosocial behaviour in the group room and are engaging with their learning. The children are encouraged to progress to the independent island just outside the learning room. This is a stepping stone towards returning to the classroom for lessons and managing potential over reliance on adult support.

As they move to the next academic year, the plan is for the children to spend the majority of their learning time back in the classroom but with the additional support of regulation activities, brain breaks, visual timetables and other mindfulness strategies learned through this year.

What are your ‘top-tips’ if another school wanted to follow a similar approach?

  • Quick identification of unsafe learners and assessment of their needs.
  • Identification of highly skilled TAs who are resilient, flexible and intuitive in their work.
  • Assess why the children are currently unable to engage with classroom learning – what is the function of the behaviour?
  •  Plan provision based on supporting these emotional needs.
  • A regular review approach is absolutely necessary to move the children forward as their needs evolve and their response to approaches employed can vary.

How have you been using the Inclusion Framework to support you in identifying / improving practice? What benefits have you found?

We have used the inclusion framework to evaluate how we can best support teachers and teaching assistants to feel equipped to provide quality first teaching for students on our SEN register and to monitor and support those who fall behind- identifying additional needs in a timely manner.

We linked with these specific areas of the Inclusion Framework:

“There is effective use of resources and key staff to ensure early identification of needs and that appropriate support is put in place for individual CYP.” (Dimension 2.3)

“The school shows evidence of preparing for the inclusion of a wide range of individual CYP.  CYP who are experiencing barriers to learning and participation are viewed as individuals with different interests, knowledge and skills.”(Dimension 4.4)

“Quality first teaching meets the needs of all CYP with appropriate reasonable adjustments being made for those that need it. e.g. More able, Special Educational Needs, Pupil Premium, etc” (Dimension 4.2)

We have used the Ordinarily Available Inclusive Practice document to create “Inclusive practice records” for our class teachers to use. Taking the strategy recommendations from the OAIP, these inclusive practice records give teachers a bank of ideas for supporting children in class. The teachers highlight the strategies in place for a pupil and then select some new ideas to implement. After a period of implementation and evaluation of these strategies class teachers then meet with the SENCOs to discuss the impact of these additional measures and discuss next steps e.g. further assessments, SENCO observations, referrals to external agencies etc.

This documentation and process ensures that quality first teaching and early intervention is implemented systematically for all children that fall significantly behind their peers, or for those children who show concerning SEMH difficulties and it also supports the SENCOs in identifying those children who need to be placed on the SEN register.

Links to the West Sussex Inclusion Framework

The Wellbeing Provision at Milton Mount Primary School links to a number of Aspect and Dimensions within the West Sussex Inclusion Framework.

Within Aspect 2: Leadership

2.3 Management of Provision

  • There is effective use of resources and key staff to ensure early identification of needs and that appropriate support is put in place for individual CYP.


  • All teachers are inclusive teachers; the role of the SENCO is focused on the leadership of inclusive practice and SEND across the school and has the remit and capacity within the school to affect change as needed.

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.
  • Strategies 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.
  • A range of holistic assessment tools are used effectively to support CYP. These highlight strengths, progress and areas for development and action plans outline activities and ideas to develop skills. See SEND Toolkit for examples.

Within Aspect 4: Quality of Education

4.2 Quality First Teaching

  • Quality first teaching meets the needs of all children and young people (CYP) with appropriate reasonable adjustments being made for those that need it. E.g. more able, special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), Pupil Premium, etc.


  • The effective deployment of staff is planned and evaluated to enhance the learning of all CYP. Staff providing individual support and challenge can describe how this fosters independent learning.
  • There is a flexible approach, informed by on-going assessment, to the organisation of the teaching and learning environment that promotes co-operative learning.

4.4 Meeting needs of individual CYP

  • CYP who are experiencing barriers to learning and participation are viewed as individuals with different interests, knowledge and skills.
  • The school outlines the arrangements for and identifies and assesses CYP in order to provide additional and different provision to meet individual needs.


  • The school proactively identifies cohorts or individual CYP who could benefit from a programme of alternative provision which takes place in and / or out of school. The provision is designed to ensure clear outcomes are planned and evaluated for impact with seamless reintegration.

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Last updated 23 November 2022

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