“Just now, in Circle-Time, I felt I had been given a family.” Girl aged 9, September 2022
Recently, among my school Inset days, I have been demonstrating how emotionally safe Circle Times work in classes with great deprivation. This little girl, unkempt hair and stained clothes came up to me in the playground after my morning circle-time.
Eyes shining, she touched me on the hand, spoke, and looked at me so beseechingly. She needed more. For an hour during Circle Time she had felt valued, and the safe ground rules meant that no one could hurt anyone’s feelings, if children need to talk about difficult issues they can’t name anyone (e.g. “somebody is leaving me out.”). Everyone is gently coached by the teacher to listen well to each other. Children learn to reflect ‘so everyone feels heard’. They go through a process of turn taking, asking for and giving help and experiencing mindful visualisations. They leave, if Circle Time is done properly, “calm, soothed and safe” Trauma Informed Schools UK.
Even more importantly, they leave smiling because they have played and had FUN. For me, a key psychologist even more important than Maslow, is William Glasser – who insists that fun is a basic need of all individuals if they are to realise their potential.
This young girl needs more support. She needs to know someone is on her side. Her young ECT (Early Careers Teacher), was as lost as she was. When I talked to her about her emotionally needy class – her eyes had brimmed with tears as she told me she had done all her training online. This scenario is not unusual. The only positive aspect for her is that I am in the school because some more experienced senior managers (many young managers don’t have any experience/ knowledge of Circle Time) have collectively decided to invest in the model. Yet still many schools book training in the hope that by introducing or reinvigorating Circle Time it will act as a quick fix solution. In fact, it’s a slow, long term, whole school approach.
Any schools currently attending courses on mental health (including Trauma Informed Schools TIS UK) know that they need to roll out practical, tried and tested processes that will benefit the adults as well as the children. How can emotionally vulnerable adults support emotionally vulnerable children?
All those who know about my work, know it means we create a Positive Relationships Policy, which puts Quality Circle Time at its heart.
Apart from those who have trained or studied Circle-Time in depth, few know that weekly group listening i.e. Circle Time is backed up by Bubble-Time (safe one to one listening – called Chat Time in Secondary schools) and Think Boxes (non-verbal listening). Very few (except my Gold Awards schools) know that all these systems need to be mirrored by the same systems for the adults.
Ian Read, headteacher of Watercliffe Meadow, spoke to me recently about their experience of recent Mental Health Training. They were deeply grateful that their well-established systems meant that they could safely say that they are meeting the emotional needs of all their children – including the needs of their most vulnerable (55% free school meals, 25% SEN, 1 in 4 have Initial Note of Concerns).
Their Plan Do and Review constantly shines up all of their listening systems for children… and for adults. What makes this school special is that they run weekly Circle Times for the adults as well.
I watched the little girl walk away… and my heart lurched. Was this a school that would grow all it’s systems to support her and her teacher? Have I created high expectations for her that will not be met? Have I made things worse?
Website Editor’s Notes
Jenny works throughout the year with school leadership teams, teachers, TAs, Midday Supervisors on Closure INSET days and on Working in School Days – in the UK and overseas.
To enquire about a Jenny Mosley training day, conference, Train the Trainers course or international training please email email@example.com or phone 01225 767157