Our journey to becoming the Wellbeing School began in 2016. We realised that our approach to the mental health and wellbeing of our children was not fit for purpose: it was reactive and, as it relied heavily on external expertise, expensive. With CAMHS and NHS services stretched to breaking point, as a school we had a moral duty to ensure we supported our pupils’ emotional needs. We were convinced that, if we found the right whole-school approach, we could equip our children with the necessary mental health skills and awareness to successfully navigate their increasingly complex lives. This, in turn, we hoped, would improve behaviour and learning outcomes for everyone.
After an extensive search for a whole-school approach supported by strong evidence we discovered “RULER”, which had been created by Marc Brackett and other psychologists at Yale University. At the time, no other UK schools were using this system so we travelled to the US to learn more.
Having learnt from the team at Yale, we brought RULER back to Charles Dickens Primary School in London and began trying it in class. We soon realised that we’d need to make adaptations; to tailor and adjust it for our children in our setting. As a result, with RULER at its heart, we have developed our own system for teaching wellbeing at Charles Dickens Primary School.
With language at its core, we’ve carefully selected key emotional vocabulary which is taught systematically throughout our scheme. This gives children a deep emotional literacy enabling them to both understand and communicate their feelings.
Over the years our system has evolved to include not only short-term regulation strategies but also long-term happiness suggestions, making it a complete wellbeing package.
We have created lesson guides, beautiful pupil workbooks, animations and training to ensure that wellbeing lessons can be taught to a high standard by all staff. Our research suggests that the outcomes of our scheme include less anxiety amongst children, better concentration in class, fewer behaviour concerns at break times, fewer CAMHS referrals and, ultimately that children have a greater sense of their emotional lives.
We are proud that our wellbeing lessons are now being delivered in mainstream primary and secondary schools, pupil referral units, hospital schools and independent schools both in the UK and abroad. We are also proud that our approach has been shared by the Time Education Supplement, BERA, Impact Magazine and mental health charities. However, what matters most, is that the work that we are all doing improves the emotional wellbeing of children and gives them the best chance of leading happy, fulfilled lives.
We very much hope that you will join us and that we can continue this work together!