Resilience and R.E.S.T: measuring pupils’ resilience

Malcolm Mckinlay, headmaster of Parkgate House School and co-author of Jigsaw R.E.S.T. explains how the school has measured its pupils’ resilience

At Parkgate House School we have always been aware of the strong link between pupils being resilient and performing to the maximum of their ability. This awareness strengthened my desire to proactively build this in our pupils.

The most natural way to achieve this, I felt, was to come up with a simple way of measuring resilience, in all its different facets, that teachers could use to monitor the children in their class. I started researching resilience and engagement scales and felt that by combining parts of a few of them, I could come up with a manageable way for teachers to assess pupils.

Using the scale

The scale we now use, although not scientifically standardised, works well for us. It has 10 descriptors where pupils score from one to five against each one. Each pupil in the school therefore has a score for their resilience and engagement from a minimum of 10 to a maximum of 50. An example of one of the descriptors is ‘the pupil is usually optimistic by nature, they expect to overcome difficulties and see them as temporary’.

When starting to work with the scale, the most immediate impact was teachers reflecting on their own resilience and how they are modelling resilience to their pupils. How do they react to small things like the interactive whiteboard playing up? What message does that send to their class? Teachers quickly became aware of the powerful effect of being a ‘resilience role-model’.

Teachers at the school have become more aware of the levels of resilience in their pupils and also the steps they can take to help build it, day in and day out

Previously, when pupils were described as ‘not very resilient’, it was very difficult for teachers to know what they could do to help as we were unable to pinpoint the building blocks of resilience and thereby know where to start with interventions. The teachers at Parkgate House therefore worked to put together a bank of ideas for building resilience against each of the 10 descriptors. So, if a child is not ‘optimistic by nature’, how could we as teachers build that?

Could we try sharing stories of people who have overcome obstacles, so they know that life won’t always be straightforward? Or try celebrating the progress they have made by reviewing their work and highlighting the difficulties they have overcome? As a result of this work, teachers at the school have become more aware of the levels of resilience in their pupils and also the steps they can take to help build it, day in and day out.

Teachers are able to use the information to open conversations with parents about any area of a child’s resilience they are trying to strengthen. Working with parents like this is a vital part of the triangle – school, parent and child – trying to strengthen resilience and engagement and improve outcomes for pupils. Parent sessions are part of this work. Older pupils (years five and six) are also able to use the scale to self-assess and reflect on their own areas for development and on those which are a strength. It is amazing to see how much the pupils relish this opportunity for self-improvement.

Helping other schools

About six months into using the scale, we had a visit from an Ofsted inspector to the school who looked at the work we were doing and suggested it should be published. While researching the possibilities, I was fortunate enough to be put in touch with Jan Lever at Jigsaw PSHE and we joined forces and put together a resource called Jigsaw R.E.S.T. (Resilience and Engagement Scale and Toolkit), which comprises the scale, training materials, assemblies and a set of suggested interventions for each descriptor and each year group. This is now being used in schools across the UK and internationally.

At Parkgate House, we also began using the Jigsaw PSHE programme and the combination of the work we do to build resilience and this comprehensive PSHE curriculum has been hugely beneficial to our pupils. They are confident, self-aware and ready to face challenges.

The mindfulness thread that underpins Jigsaw has helped them build skills for keeping calm and to self-regulate. Using a combination of Jigsaw, the mindful approach to PSHE, and Jigsaw R.E.S.T. has taken the personal development of Parkgate House pupils to a level where they are confident, resilient and extremely well prepared for their future and any challenges that will come their way.

To find out more about Jigsaw PSHE, visit:

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