A few months ago, I interviewed Dr Brian Marien, Founder and Director of Positive Group, about working with The Girls Day School Trust (GDST) to help teachers build resilience through the Positive Schools Programme. After our chat, Brian invited me to an event at Putney High School which would illustrate further how his work is helping teacher and pupil wellbeing. I happily accepted the invitation, as I was keen to hear how The Positive Schools Programme is impacting schools directly.
GDST has worked with the Positive Schools Programme in nine of their schools in the past academic year, with Putney High School one of the first schools to adopt the programme.
“At Putney High School we are always open to new ideas,” explained Headmistress Suzie Longstaff, “so, for me, this approach is another key opportunity to actively build positive habits of mind and be at the forefront of positive wellbeing. We want to build resilience and positivity long before any problems settle in.”
“What impresses me the most about the programme is that it is underpinned by scientific research.”
The programme involves a digital toolkit which helps teachers to understand and communicate their feelings, so that they can build a stronger emotional literacy. Teachers are then encouraged to teach these tools to their students so they too can benefit from emotional literacy.
A selection of staff and pupils piloted the programme at Putney High School and the school has already seen great success. At the event a group of participants otherwise known as ‘Putney Pioneers’, explained how they had embraced the programme.
“What impresses me the most about the programme is that it is underpinned by scientific research,” said Evergreen Armstrong, Head of Year 7 and Head of Wellbeing at Putney High School. “It speaks to an intuitive sense that we all have about teacher and student wellbeing, which is that they are intrinsically linked. As you go through the programme and acquire the knowledge and skills to develop your own emotional literacy, you can then begin to translate those tools into something meaningful for students.”
That something meaningful is clearly already happening, as two Year 7 pupils explained how they were using the programme to be more positive about learning. They had already learnt about the differences between optimism and pessimism and explained to the audience how being negative can impact their ability to succeed. The audience was visibly impressed, as after all, it had only been a few weeks since they started at the school.
This is the power of the Positive Schools Programme; it has the ability to change the entire school and beyond. GDST is seeing this impact in the schools that have piloted the programme, as between April 2016 and June 2017 Positive Group collected data from those using the digital tools and found that 54.2% agreed that it would help their wellbeing.
These are outcomes that have delighted the GDST. “Our educational philosophy has always been about giving our pupils the tools to thrive, not just academically but as a whole person. To us, the value of Positive’s approach lies in its emphasis on improving your knowledge and understanding of how the mind interacts with emotions, and how this knowledge can be used proactively to help both our pupils and staff stay well, adapt to change and embrace challenge in their work and beyond,” said Cheryl Giovannoni, Chief Executive Officer at GDST.
As the event at Putney High School drew to a close, it became clear that this is just the beginning of what Positive Group and GDST are hoping to achieve.