Alison describes her baby observation sessions at the Tavistock institute as one of the most influential parts of her training. Watching a baby and her mum interact for 1 hour a week over 2 years and then explore the importance of relationships and learning at the very beginning of life she describes as an immense privilege and one that has influenced her work.
The Circles for Learning project grew out of Alison’s teaching experience, Psychotherapy training and her and reading and training around the effective lifelong learning inventory described by Guy Claxton, Ruth Deakin Crick and Professor Patricia Broadfoot. This research identifies 7 areas that support learning.
Alison describes all these concepts coming together when working with teachers and teaching assistants in schools while running work discussion groups. During such sessions Alison found herself discussing attachment and its implications for learning and relationships in schools, emotional barriers to learning and skills needed to be a good learner. Alison was very aware that staff needed help and support in developing knowledge and understanding in these areas and that children needed to develop skills to support the development of each area. The Circles for Learning project was born.
Over the next year Alison ran her project in her school exploring how children and young people responded to a visitor parent and young child. She then followed the observation sessions with specific lessons teaching emotion literacy, social skills, and brain development. Alongside this work Alison began to research the ares that made a difference to mental health and wellbeing (MHWB).
Through her research Alison identified 5 key areas that had been shown to impact on children's ability to build positive mental health and wellbeing. These areas were: the ability to build and maintain positive relationships, strong emotional literacy, the ability to be curious and self-reflective and have a good understanding of self, strong skills for learning and an understanding of how the brain influences thoughts and behaviours.
The Circles for Learning project evolved and grew based on this research. With the help of 6 amazing teachers Alison then ran the project across 6 schools based in East Sussex, training the staff, coaching the work and providing some of the lessons.
Since those early days Alison has now written and published the Mental Health and Wellbeing Toolkit, a brilliant resource for teachers, focused on the five key areas. Online training is now available for teachers who want to run the project in their school.
Alison has also undertaken several more research studies looking at the impacts of the project on children, staff and school culture. This then led to her undertaking a Masters by Research into the impact of the project of children attending secondary schools both mainstream and in the special education field.
To help children and young people develop the skills that create positive foundations for Mental Health and Wellbeing
To support the development of emotional literacy, social skills, learning relationships and self-awareness
To forge a strong link in the classroom between learning and wellbeing
To provide classroom practitioners with the training and support to extend their knowledge and understanding of the five key areas that make positive foundations for Mental Health and Wellbeing in the classroom
Explore the project
What is the Circles for Learning project?
How the project fits with whole school objectives
Developing positive foundations for mental health and wellbeing
How the project can be used to build resilience in children
What teachers say
About the founder