Alison Waterhouse and her Circles for Learning project presented me with a unique opportunity to restore and develop emotional and social wellbeing to young learners in my school. The outcome for some of my most disaffected learners was profound. Circles for Learning has opened up a world of opportunities and provided fundamental emotional building blocks for all the children who experienced the project.
Having taken part in the research project for secondary schools I can say that the project has been really good. I remember seeing the project for the first time at a conference and knew it would be really interesting to work on with our young people. (Special school for children with profound learning differences) The young people have loved having the young child in the classroom and looked forward to each visit asking when baby would be in. It has provoked a wide range of work about communication, relationships and emotional regulation. It has also had a really positive impact on the team as it has enabled us to observe the young people and share the progress in different areas we have seen.
Secondary assistant head
My class were a challenging class at the start of this project. 76% of them had a special need of some sort, be it behavioural support or educational. When we began circles for learning it was apparent they lacked some crucial social skills, in particular the ability to be supportive of each other and the ability to be empathetic. By the end of the project the children were still challenging, however there was a vast improvement in their understanding of each other's needs. They started to be able to problem solve ways of dealing with a range of situations and became more thoughtful of others. The Circles for Learning Project definitely helped them to develop crucial social maturity and see things from another perspective. The basis of developing empathy. The whole experience was a worthwhile and rewarding one for both myself as a professional, and the majority of the children within the class.
Year 6 teacher
Circles for Learning has been difficult to establish in school as we are a secondary school however it was well worth the effort. The children have loved watching and interacting with their class baby and watching her grow and develop. The observation sessions have enabled them to extend their language around emotions, link emotions to behaviour and become more open to talking about how they feel and why. Behaviour incidents of the young people working on the project have dropped and they are now more able to ask for and accept help when things go wrong.
I have watched the children in my class visibly grow in their learning. They have become more engaged, they talk about learning more and are far more interested in how they all learn. They are more engaged in the activities we are doing and all have taken responsibility for their learning. For me however the most important thing is that they are each much more supportive of each other. They are now able to work together in a more positive way and they all seem to be developing greater resilience when working. It really has been a great project and one i can't wait to undertake again.
Year 5/6 teacher
I have enjoyed every moment of the work I have undertaken with children on the Circles for Learning project. It has been the most exciting journey with the children I have undertaken in many years. The whole class have engaged with the project and have not only benefited individually but also as a class. Their ability to talk about their learning, how they feel, the different stages they go through and how they meet the challenges of frustration, not knowing and working together has been quiet extraordinary. There have also been some amazing moments where they have clearly understood another child’s difficulties and have then supported them in such lovely ways. A great journey and I that I can’t wait to set out on again with my next group of children.
Year 2 teacher
The project really helped me understand some aspects around behaviour and the importance of emotional literacy more fully. It taught me to think about things in a different way and because of this my relationships with the young people have really grown. Behaviour issues are far less disruptive and our conversations about both work and how they feel have become a key part of lessons.
Secondary assistant SENCo
Circles for Learning is an innovative and compelling way for children to learn about what it is to be human. Through careful observation, questioning and dialogue the group discover the wonder of life, and have the opportunity to relate their growing knowledge and understanding to themselves and those around them. It is a vehicle through which children can explore the development of cognition, emotions, relationships and skills. It is a first rate example of learning at its best.
Explore the project
What is the Circles for Learning project?
The thinking behind Circles for Learning
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
About the founder