Totternhoe’s ‘T -curriculum’
As we re-open our school to all year groups and classes on March 8th 2021, we are, once again, very aware of the wide range of experiences, feelings, fears and anxieties that will have affected and may continue to affect our whole school community, families – parents and children, and our staff, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We fully recognise that as we welcome back the children, after this further significant period out of the classroom for very many of our pupils, that there is an important and vital need to take time to rebuild a sense of safety, and belonging, relationships with peers and staff, and to begin to find ways to understand and process what has happened over the past year, since the first lockdown.
At Totternhoe CE Academy, we believe that, first and foremost, we must prioritise the social, emotional and mental wellbeing of all our learners. This is key to enabling our learners to begin to access more formal learning across the curriculum.
Totternhoe CE Academy will continue to use the ‘T-curriculum’ for the re-integration to school of all our learners, following guidelines and advice built on research around recovery following trauma.
We will also be using Art Therapy to allow children to express their emotions and feelings, basing this around the metaphor, ‘We are all in the same storm…not the same boat!’ to explore their lockdown journeys. Our approach is based on evidence-based research* and has been supported by whole staff training with an art psychotherapist.
Giving children and young people the opportunity to explore and express their emotions through art and imaginative play is at the heart of our approach to supporting good mental health in our school. Art can provide a very natural and safe way for children to express themselves. They can play, experiment, make a mess, create stories, use metaphors to represent feelings, explore alternative narratives, externalise their feelings by creating characters, reflect, and share their art with others. They may choose to use colour, texture, different materials, found objects, photographs, collage, sculpture or film, to express themselves. The possibilities are almost endless and can be adapted to suit the individual needs of each child or group of children.
During this period of exploring, assessing and addressing the social and emotional needs of our returning children, we shall also be assessing English and Maths, to begin identifying which key areas of learning to focus on in planning for the summer term.
*Research has shown that different types of art activities increase different elements of health and wellbeing. Dance can be shown to improve the physical health and self-esteem of participants, in particular for girls who are not engaging in other physical activity (Connolly, et al. 2011). Theatre, drama and group music-making, improves young people’s social skills and emotional wellbeing (Schellenberg, et al. 2015 & Hughes & Wilson 2004).
Learning to play an instrument has been shown to help children better cope with stress (Roden, et al. 2016) with Hallam noting in the Power of Music (2015) ‘Music has a particular role in the reduction of stress and anxiety.’ The act of making art (visual or performance) develops young people’s sense of identity and self-efficacy and increases children and young people’s resilience (Catteral & Peppler 2007, Merrell & Tymms 2002, Schellenberg, et al. 2015), a key component of good mental health.
Time to be TOGETHER – to feel safe, to be valued, to belong - through playing together, having fun, being creative and enjoying being together again
Time to learn to be a TEAM – to develop our social skills, re-creating the bonds we have with each other, and building new relationships – through play, shared activities, active listening
Time to TRUST - to feel safe and valued, to know that we can share and be supported
Time to TALK – to feel confident to share and express our feelings, to develop understanding and explore solutions
Time to THINK – to reflect on what has happened, what is happening now, and what might/will happen in the future – and how we can use our shared experiences to cope.
Time to TRANSITION – to prepare and be ready for re-engaging in meaningful, formal learning where children make progress.
These key areas will underpin the planning and implementation of our curriculum, continuing to meet the needs of all our learners, using a breadth of learning experiences at Totternhoe CE Academy, including a focus on fun, active and outdoor learning; calming, reflective activities; social times developing meaningful communication.