What we do

Circles for Learning: building positive foundations for mental health and wellbeing, enabling children to flourish and learn

Circles for Learning

Imagine a classroom, which focuses on supporting wellbeing, resilience and self-esteem as well as learning.

Where children and young people can regulate their emotions, share how they feel and talk about their learning. Where adults work together to help develop a mental health friendly classroom, which, builds the skills for positive mental health and wellbeing as well as those needed for learning.

That is our vision at Circles for Learning and that is why we support dedicated and inspirational practitioners to achieve a mental health friendly classroom where skills for learning and wellbeing are taught and used to support each other.

Do you want to make a difference?

My name is Alison Waterhouse, I trained as a teacher and have been working with children and young people, in a range of roles for the past 30 years. I was the Founding Head of a well-respected Therapeutic Special School in Kent, worked as a SENCo and Inclusion Manager in mainstream schools before training as an Education Psychotherapist.

I have worked for both Young Minds and the Anna Freud Centre as a trainer for schools and work as a part time Wellbeing Adviser for the Shaw Trust (Optimus) supporting schools achieve their prestigious Schools Wellbeing Award. My passion is both education and wellbeing, and creating ways when they can both support and strengthen each other. I passionately believe that without wellbeing there can be no real learning.

I have written several books for teachers including:

All my books are published by Routledge and are focused on helping schools develop their mental health and wellbeing provision both across the whole schools and in the classroom.

Whether you’re a Head Teacher or a SENCO, a class teacher or a Wellbeing Lead, a Thrive practitioner or a Teaching Assistant I understand that you want to make a difference to the children you teach. Not only to their academic achievements, but to their wellbeing, their ability to flourish, manage their future and be happy.

Circles for Learning is here to support you; we understand how learning and wellbeing, used together can create a strong and exciting classroom environment. We understand that learning cannot happen unless children feel safe, can regulate themselves, get on with others and feel that they belong.

Circles for Learning is a unique project that has been developed by myself, alongside of some amazing classroom practitioners. It focuses on developing the FIVE essential areas that underpin positive mental health and wellbeing in a fun and interactive way for children. It is fully inclusive and utilises the skills already developed within some children to support and teach others.

Circles for Learning brings together a class of KS1, KS2 or KS3 children and young people with a parent and their young child (anywhere from 9 months to two years old) once a month for a whole year. When the children and young people meet the parent and young child.

During each session the children watch and interact with the parent and child. The role of the Lead Teacher is to help them observe and reflect on what they see and what this means. This amazing experience allows children to watch emotions in action, relationships develop, understand the link between what we feel, think and how we behave, watch self-development as it unfolds and start to reflect on themselves as individuals and as learners. All the building blocks that underpin our positive mental health and wellbeing.

The Results

Circles for Learning is based upon science and is supported by research in real schools, both primary and secondary and in both we got some great results. Our first research project was working with 6 primary schools in East Sussex. Here, our research highlighted, children improved in:

  • Talking about how they felt and use ways to regulate their emotions
  • Listening to each other and working together in class more successfully
  • Problem solving both in their learning and with each other
  • Staff were able to manage behaviour more successfully and felt that their classrooms were calmer and that children respected each other more

Due to these results we then went on to really look at what happened. We worked with two primary schools in Kent. Both schools ran Circles for Learning in a classroom. One in a Y3/4 class and one in a Y5/6. They also ran Circles for Learning in two small groups. Their results were very exciting and showed:

  • 75% improvement in self-esteem
  • 69% improvement in self-awareness
  • 73% improvement in self-regulation
  • 74% improvement in social skills 

I then decided to see whether Circles for Learning could be used in Secondary schools. I undertook an MA in Education by Research with York University to see what happened. Five great secondary schools undertook the project. Two mainstream schools, One SEMH school, One school with children with profound learning difficulties and one Special school for children with ASD. I found that the project had a really positive impact on the staff who led it as well as the children who took part. Our results showed:

  • 46% improvement in self-awareness
  • 57% improvement in self-regulation
  • 46% increase in motivation
  • 57% increase in empathy
  • 50% increase in social skills 

If you would like to learn more about the project or introduce this wonderful way of equipping children and young people to learn and to flourish then please get in touch.

Get in touch

Pop us a message if you have any questions about the project

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