The Quantock Education Trust
The Quantock Education Trust is a mixed MAT of four unique schools in Somerset: Stogursey CofE Primary, Spaxton CE Primary, Haygrove School and Sexey’s School. The trust, like many across the country, values the diversity and distinctiveness of their schools, give the different age ranges from early years to sixth form, church and non-church status including the boarding provision.
The central drive is to promote an ethos of high ambition and expectations embedded within a culture of care, wellbeing and sense of belonging. The core values of the trust are depicted as CARE:
Community – we listen to, influence and play an active role in our communities
Aspiration – we raise standards and provide opportunity for developing talents in all areas of life
Respect – we respect and celebrate the value and preciousness of each individual
Equity – we aim to enrich unique life opportunities for all, overcoming barriers and achieving goals
The trusts CEO, Chrysta Garnett, along with the Senior Leadership Team wanted to send an authentic and distinct message to support staff that they are valued as human beings, and are a valued component to shaping progress. GETTING BETTER TOGETHER is both individual contribution, and a collective effort as a trust.
Getting better together
Support staff represent 120 employees in more than 30 unique roles across the trust. A quite remarkable, unique and diverse staff team, exquisitely positioned to drive forward the collective values and help shape the shared vision.
Close relationships, meaningful collaborations and a one team culture was at the heart of the planning for the inaugural INSET, and is where Bounce Forward came in.
We are more than professionals, colleagues, or workers, we are people and people matter
The aim was to provide a space for discussion and to explore, as a collective team, using the CARE values to underpin and drive the day. As people started to arrive the conversations began, there was a buzz in the air – it was so good to be all be together in the room as one large team.
Bounce Forward’s approach is to use the science of psychological fitness to help individuals recognise and value the importance of looking after wellbeing as a key driver for both personal and professional success.
The session was designed to help build a sense of belonging, recognising that there has been much change internally and that external pressures and exciting challenges keep coming. It was essential that it centred on the trust taking an active role in caring about each member of staff, to show they really care. The hope was that ideas shared through the day would be useful personally, encourage a shared language framework for problem solving and could then be applied as they engage with each other, with students and with parents.
An overview of the programme is shown below. It brought together a series of connected sessions to provide an insight into psychological fitness, why it matters and how to build it. Each session included a practical and interactive aspect to bring to life the benefits, to increase the ‘know how’ of applying well established concepts and theories into personal, professional and everyday lives.
Session 1: What is psychological fitness, and why does it matter?
Setting out Bounce Forward’s experience and the theory of personal development in relation to mental resilience and emotional wellbeing.
Session 2: Listening to each other with empathy for personal growth
Detailing the cognitive behavioural link between thoughts, feelings and behaviour, and how it is at the heart of agency, listening to each other with empathy and personal growth. The asked the group to practice using the ABC skill and then extended the understanding by exploring habits of thinking and how habits can get in the way of how we feel and behave. The session was linked to the trust value of ‘Community’ and the active role each person plays in listening (with empathy) to influence and ‘Respect’ the value of each individual.
Session 3: Strengths
Introducing the work into human strengths and qualities. Then using this as a way for the group to identify and discuss their strengths with each other. Getting to know our unique strengths and qualities is directly linked to boosting confidence, strengthening relationships, building meaning and purpose. Understanding our strengths is the part of us that allows us to feel authentic and engaged. This activity directly connects to the trust’s value of ‘Aspiration’ for developing talents in all areas of life.
Impact and evaluation
We use four key impact statements to assess feedback:
- 100% agreed and strongly agreed that the training was useful personally
- 99% agreed and strongly agreed that the skills learnt would be useful in their work
- 99% agreed the approach would help improve the school
- 99% would recommend the training to others
We asked the group to provide one practical way they might use the information:
- By understanding the emotions and behaviours that can occur in certain situations and accepting that feeling that way is not ‘wrong’ but ‘natural’ and then having the tools to enable you to manage those emotions behave/react in a professional manner.
- To be more open and request help rather than trying to cope on my own. Thinking of how my actions may affect others.
- Distracting my busy mind when I need to!!
- I need to reflect on everything before I can answer this, but maybe that’s what I took away.
- Double checking myself about how I react to the ‘A’s and making sure it is an appropriate response. Think things through a bit more.
- When a new stressful situation arises, I will be using the skills I have learnt to be more resilient, and problem solve. This is then a skill I can share with the children I work with.
It is important with an investment of time like this to make sure it doesn’t stop at the end of the day. The trust is keen to ensure this is the start, and particularly wanting to use the day to spark innovation and ideas for continuing to get better together.
We asked Lucy Bailey, who facilitated the session to share the key takeaways, and how they could start to deploy some of the strategies in their work a) with each other b) with themselves c) in their interactions with children.
With each other:
- Connect in person as much as possible, use the phone rather than email. Remember our human qualities matter.
- Focus on the ‘good things’ that happen as much as the less good things. Each day tell someone what they have done that made a positive difference – even if it’s small.
- Support each other to problem solve. Seek each other’s perspective. Use ABC individually and talk more about the Bs with each other to structure conversations.
- Remember we all have habits of thinking that can get in the way, but that we all can flex our thinking and work towards more accuracy in the way we see things.
- Value the role of positive emotions. Have a little bank of ‘things that work for me’ that vary in time and work in different situations across the day both in and out of school. They can then deploy them in the moments they need them most.
- Use ABC – start with the small things that get in the way for them. Write them down. Overtime this will give them a flavour of their beliefs and help them see any ‘go to’ habits in their thinking.
- Be willing/brave to challenge their thinking – imagine the opposite of what they believe to be true and then go look for some evidence to see what they might be missing. Being wrong sometimes is what is needed to move forward, tough at the time, but so rewarding when looking back on what has been achieved as a result.
- Choose optimism (wedded to reality). Optimism is more likely to help them move forward rather than remain stuck or give up.
In their interactions with students
- Model the behaviour they expect to from students.
- Pass on the bits they heard during the session that landed most with them – in other words pass on the skills/ideas/knowledge.
- Model failure as a learning opportunity – let them see you fail and seek their help in finding optimistic solutions.