We are often asked for references and background information about the approaches underpinning Jenny Mosley’s Golden Model and Quality Circle Time work. Much of Jenny’s work has evolved up over the years by Jenny working in schools with hard-working headteachers, deputy headteachers, teachers, assistants and midday supervisors.
An excellent read if you are interested in some background work underpinning Jenny’s Quality Circle Time and Circles of Support approach (smaller circle time group work for children requiring extra support) is a chapter that Jenny wrote for a conference in Malta, and the chapter was written up and included in a book called: Promoting Emotional Education: Engaging Children and Young People with Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties Edited by Carmel Cefai and Paul Cooper
Jenny wrote chapter 9 of the book entitled: Circle Time and Socio-emotional Competence in Children and Young People by Jenny Mosley
A paper based on Jenny’s writing for Chapter 9 of this publication is here below, or click on the link to download it:
This is an exciting book, with 14 chapters each one on a different aspect of this subject and by a range of inspiring authors.
For the benefit of readers of Jenny Mosley’s Quality Circle Time and Positive Press website, we are reproducing here from Jenny Mosley’s chapter (Chapter 9) in the book Jenny’s sections some of which were since edited for the book. Publication details are: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London N1 9JB www.jkp.com
Circle Time and Socio-emotional Competence in Children and Young People by Jenny Mosley
‘Socio-emotional competence’ is a complex term relating to various emotional literacy and social skills. Our preferred definition for ‘socio-emotional effectiveness’ describes the skills associated with socio-emotional competence as follows:
A combination of emotional intellect, social effectiveness, and, perhaps, emotional intelligence itself might be represented by the term socio-emotional effectiveness – ‘an individual’s capacity to navigate the social world in an effective manner, accomplishing his or her goals as needed’. (Mayer and Ciarrochi 2006, p.265
It is now widely acknowledged that, in order to succeed at school and beyond, not only do children need to become academic learners, but also their whole-person development depends upon their abilities to deal flexibly with personal and interpersonal challenges. In one recent study, three secondary schools who made promising developments in emotional literacy also reported improvements in areas like learning, academic standards, attendance, behaviour, relationships and improved staff well-being and retention (Lee 2006). In a recent review of studies on socio-emotional competence, the development of children’s social, emotional and behavioural skills have been linked to greater educational success, improvements in behaviour, increased inclusion, improved learning, greater social cohesion, and improvements in mental health (Weare and Gray 2003).
Due to the early pioneering work of a passionate few, circle time is now a commonly used approach, across UK primary schools in particular, for children to practise social and emotional competencies. Though the idea of holding meetings in community circles is almost as old as civilisation itself, in more recent times there have been several pioneers in the field. Ballard and Zimmerman from the USA expanded the idea of circle time in the 1970s and 1980s. White (1999), an exponent on self-esteem and circle time, is well-published in this area, while Robinson and Maines have published various books on areas of emotional literacy including circle time (Bliss, Robinson and Maines 1995); Robinson and Maines 1998).
Circle time is a child-friendly approach encouraging the practice of socio-emotional skills in an inclusive, caring and democratic climate. A variable number of individuals can participate in a circle, which helps everyone to be of equal status and encourages all to participate. It lends itself efficiently to practicing skills such as speaking, listening, turn-taking, problem-solving, and enjoying and appreciating each other’s company. Some of these skills are key elements of socio-emotional effectiveness. By planning structured and appropriate circle time sessions within a safe and supportive setting, children can participate in stage-appropriate tasks, games and discussions to help develop their self-esteem, self-confidence, emotional literacy and social skills, thereby impacting upon their overall level of socio-emotional competence.
The support given by timetabled weekly circle time sessions and other traditional classroom management systems is sufficient to gain a positive response from the majority of children, For children who are not able readily to access these systems, and whose behaviour is challenging or of concern in some other way, small, focused groupwork sessions are sometimes made available There are a number of examples of these systems in classrooms today, together with a long history of support gropus focusing on anger management, self-esteem and many other areas. Nurture groups (Bennathan and Boxall 1998) are an effective small-group intervention, providing a place and time within school for children to grow socially and emotionally. Usually taking place for part of the school day and in a separate and homely space, groups of up to 12 children undertake an enjoyable and nurturing programme of actrivities assisted by two adults.
The ‘circle of friends’ approach (Newton and Wilson 1999; Taylor 1996, 1997) offers a structured intervention based on the belief that a person’s judgements about their behaviour and that of others can be influenced by the social situation. The intervention uses small-group sessions to give one specific child positive attention to help them interpret and respond to their environment and social situations with understanding.
The theoretical underpinnings for the many and varied traditional circle time sessions and small-group approaches are far-reaching and may well cite links to a person-centred counselling approach (Mead 1934; Rogers 1961, 1970); social learning theory (Bandura 1977); the circle of friends intervention approach (Newton and Wilson 1999; Taylor 1996, 1997); emotional literacy programmes (Morris and Casey 2005; Morris and Morris 2002); behavioural approached (Cooper, Smith and Upton 1994); and the eco-systemic approach 9Mosley 1993, 1996, 1998). This chapter focuses on two approaches I have developed to promote socio-emotional competencies amongst children, namely Quality Circle Time and the smaller circles of support, and the following sections describe how these two approaches may be used in schools for the promotion of healthy social and emotional development in children.
Support for the development of children’s socio-emotional competencies through Jenny Mosley’s Quality Circle Time model and smaller Circles of Support
Inspired particularly by the groupwork and social dynamics theories of researchers such as Moreno (1934, 1946), Mead (1934), Rogers (1951, 1961), Glaser (1965, 1975, 1990) and Burns (1979, 1982), Mosley has been developing her own Quality Circle Time (QCT) model over the last twenty years (1986 – present) and has widely published on all aspects of this circle time model (Mosley, 1988, 1989, 1993, 1996, 1998, 2005, 2006, Mosley and Tew, 1998a, 1998b).
‘Quality Circle Time’ is a generic term for Mosley’s ecosystemic model (see attached) – alternatively called the Whole School Quality Circle Time model. This refers to a whole range of strategies throughout school that effect children’s self-esteem and positive behaviour – therefore able to directly influence children’s levels of socio-emotional competence in a positive way. The QCT model is theoretically underpinned by the approaches listed under the traditional circle time and circles of support sessions above, and it promotes two types of circle time sessions: mainstream QCT sessions (Mosley 1996 and 1998) and circles of support to provide extra help for children with additional emotional or behavioural needs (Mosley and Niwano, 2007a).
QCT sessions are a resource for the whole class. They are dynamic and focused circle times that follow a carefully structured Five-Step model on a regular weekly basis. The sessions are built around the five skills of listening, speaking, looking, thinking and concentrating.
Circles of support within the QCT model are a smaller, short-term, carefully planned and specifically structured intervention for small groups of children who find it difficult to access class QCT systems and to adhere to agreed behavioural guidelines
Both QCT sessions and circles of support have been used in hundreds of schools for many years in the UK and other countries. In 2005 the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) in England released their Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) toolkit for schools (DfES, 2005), highlighting Mosley’s QCT model as a highly effective approach for the delivery of the SEAL programme;
Circle time is likely to be most effective when embedded within a whole-school approach, such as the Whole School Quality Circle Time model developed by Jenny Mosley. This describes a democratic and practical school management system which addresses social, emotional and behavioural issues through a systemic approach. Its features reflect closely the philosophy, guidance and practice embodied in the SEAL curriculum resource. This model helps schools create the ethos advocated in the resource, by supporting them to create an environment in which social, emotional and behavioural skills can be developed. (DfES, 2005, p.54)
Additionally, within the SEAL programme, a type of small circle group work is promoted with similar aims and methods to that of Mosley’s circles of support.
Work with the QCT model has shown that, whilst some children (and adults) possess or develop relationship skills naturally, it is possible to teach them to everyone to some degree. Self-esteem theory teaches us that if a person is treated with respect and warmth, ‘the individual will see himself as having the characteristics and values that others attribute to him’ (Rogers, 1961). QCT sessions provide an ideal opportunity for all our intelligences to be stretched and challenged. Children are not only specifically taught the skills they need for personal and social development, but they also learn self-awareness and how to recognise and monitor their own feelings. In addition, they are taught strategies to handle their’s and others’ feelings in a respectful and sensitive way. QCT places great importance on the need for empathy, for understanding another’s world and helps the children to explore and discover successful ways of interacting with others.
Organising a Quality Circle Time session
QCT sessions are designed to provide a safe and effective vehicle for increasing children’s communication skills, developing their socio-emotional competences and providing a forum for the class to discuss salient issues. The flexibility of circle time means that the session can also be used to enhance the teaching of language skills and other academic subjects. The sessions are always designed with the following in mind:
- Structure – sessions are a timetabled, weekly activity with a five-step plan. Each stage has a specific structure and leads into the next step (see below).
- Solution-focused – the atmosphere of safety is reinforced by the requirements of preventing put-downs and negative attitudes, teaching positive behaviours and attitudes, and raising self-esteem.
- Variety– a wide range of teaching strategies is available to circle time practitioners, including directed discussion, teaching of thinking and problem-solving skills, and other active methods. Children know that every circle time meeting is different.
QCT meetings progress through five distinct steps, each having a particular purpose. The theme of the meeting will be apparent in each step but will be handled differently at each stage.
1 Meeting up – playing a game
Sessions begin with an enjoyable game to help children relax, release tension and feel the joy of being in a group. Games often involve mixing the children up, providing opportunities for new friendships, creating a supportive atmosphere.
2 Warming up – breaking the silence
Many children need to ‘warm up’ to speaking and this is achieved through a speaking and listening ‘round’ made as straightforward as possible, reducing threat or embarrassment. The teacher introduces a sentence stem, such as ‘My favourite animal is . . .’ The facilitator passes a ‘speaking object’ to the child next to them who repeats the stem, adding their favourite animal and so on. Any child who does not want to speak may say ‘Pass’ and pass the object on.
3 Opening up – exploring issues
This step is more challenging, an opportunity for important issues to be discussed, such as exploring problems, concerns, hopes and fears, encouraging children to develop a belief in their ability to make responsible choices and decisions. Raising their hands to take turns, children practice specific skills such as listening or speaking in turn and problem-solving. Children can be encouraged to ask the group for help with something. Members can suggest ‘Would it help if . . .?’ Also, step three utilizes ‘metaphor’ through stories, role play, puppets and drama. Through metaphor children can open up about their feelings without having the spotlight put on them.
4 Cheering up – celebrating the positive
It can be difficult to ‘switch off’ from issues of concern so it is important that you provide closing activities that ensure everyone leaves the meeting feeling calm and refreshed. This step celebrates the group’s successes and strengths and gives children the opportunity to praise one another or cheer everyone up by giving individual children the chance to teach everyone new skills and games to help everyone feel more competent, happy and positive.
5 Calming down – bridging
This is to ‘bridge’ the session to make a calm transition to the next activity. It may involve a calm game, a song or a guided visualisation. The children learn through this that they can have quiet times safely and calm down, even when they are in a group.
The following are considered when setting up circle time sessions:
- Find the right space
- Choose a good time
- Put a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door
- Build a good collection of props
- Prepare your adult helpers
- Facilitate different learning styles
- Encourage but don’t force anyone
- Use the sessions to meet children’s needs
- Try small Circes of Support for children who are ‘beyond’ the usual strategies
The use of chairs for the circle is recommended even though some activities may take place on the floor inside the circle of chairs. Guidelines are introduced to the circle time sessions which are then negotiated and agreed by the children and adults. Teachers may want to agree practical routines, such as punctuality and tidying the room. It is useful to discuss with the children what should happen if someone breaks a rule and what incentives can be used for keeping the rules.
Organising a QCT Circle of Support session
Many aspects of running circles of support are similar to class circle times although between four and six children ‘beyond’ the usual support systems are carefully chosen to attend (Mosley and Niwano, 2007a). The children chosen will be those finding it difficult to access the main class systems of support and behaviour management. All staff working with the children, and parents, are informed. Children are interviewed before attending by the facilitators. Up to another four children are chosen to join the circle, children who could benefit from attending and who have good social skills. Two facilitators run the sessions so that they can plan activities, liaise with all concerned and share the running of the sessions. Regular reviews take place between the facilitators, children and class teachers to discuss progress.
Sessions last from three quarters to one hour, although shorter sessions may be used at first. A series of sessions usually lasts a term, although some children may need a longer. At the end of a series of sessions, children are carefully ‘bridged’ back into mainstream circle time, which is helped if one facilitator goes to the circle time with them and if familiar games are played. If children are not be seen to be improving, professional support should be sought.
Some practitioners feel the benefits are difficult to measure or intangible but some choose to use a measurement tool to assess their work. Change of this nature can be really difficult to measure – especially changes in attitude, behaviour, emotional literacy and resilience. Teachers can use forms of formative assessment, including using various ‘I can’ statements with the children, and allowing them to assess themselves against these in order to celebrate successes and identify the next target. Summative assessment, however, reports on absolute achievements and scores for evaluative or accountability purposes. For this type of assessment, a standardised, reliable measuring tool is required.
Quality Circle Time
Measuring the qualities associated with socio-emotional effectiveness is complex, with socio-emotional benefits often being subtle, ‘soft’ and difficult to quantify. Much early research on the effects of QCT programmes was not robust enough for statistical examination, although the results of such programmes can be seen in action now as schools are openly functioning effectively with these systems in place. QCT programmes are frequently passionately upheld by both children and teachers.
The following section discusses potential findings from QCT and circles of support research in terms of their impact on various socio-emotional competences amongst children and young persons. Some of the research referred to is formal, some is from dissertations and some from reports that are informal or unpublished. Further, larger scale research into the socio-emotional benefits of circle time for children is clearly needed.
Several studies have involved QCT programmes in various settings. Dawson and McNess (1997) reported that, in a survey on the use of circle time in primary schools in Wiltshire and Swindon, 88% of the headteachers who replied, stated that they used circle time in their schools. 71% said that circle time raises self-esteem, 79% said that it increases social skills, 85% stated that it improves communication and 69% stated that it helps children to take responsibility for their own actions.
Tew (1999) surveyed primary schools in the UK and found that headteachers identified circle time as a powerful system for improving school ethos, raising self-esteem and promoting the spiritual, cultural, moral, social and personal development of children. These benefits can all be naturally linked to an improved level of socio-emotional competence. Early results from the circle time research by the ‘Campaign for Learning’ showed that circle time programmes benefited children in many ways, including children having more time to reflect up on their feelings, increased readiness to learn, improved resilience and less inappropriate behaviour (Higgins et al., 2005, 2006).
Results from a study on early years pupils showed that, alongside an approach to classroom organisation promoting active independent learning, a classroom management approach that centres upon circle time significantly contributes to the personal, social and health education (PSE) Early Learning Goals (Wood, 2001).
In an experimental circle time approach in a secondary school, a difference was found between two Year 7 groups, one being taught PSE (personal and social education) within circle time sessions and the other taught PSE in a normal class setting. After a series of PSE sessions, the circle time group was more familiar with personal information about pupils in the group and was easily able to make positive comments about other people in their group (Tew, 1998). Teachers involved with the programme at the school also made positive comments relating to pupils’ self confidence, attitude and learning about each other.
In a large-scale, recent but still unpublished survey of how children in 16 Dublin schools felt about the circle time sessions that they had experienced, over three hundred mixed primary-age children completed an evaluation of their experience of circle time. The evaluations have been qualitatively examined. This is an interesting study, still in its infancy, giving a voice to what the students themselves had to say about their experience of circle time. The vast majority of children’s comments fell into the following broad categories, most of which are relevant to specific aspects of socio-emotional development (Mosley and Niwano 2007b).
- Sessions are enjoyable
“I love it, absolutely love it.”
“I feel great after it.”
“Feel good because Circle Time is all about listening, and learning, and having fun.”
- Helps concentration
“I feel great, the circle time helped me listen and concentrate”
“By doing concentration in a fun way.”
“She helped us more by the concentration.”
- Helps with listening to each other
“The way everybody settles down and listens to each other.”
“Everyone was very respectful and they listened and we all had a great time.”
“My class has been helped because they listen better.”
- Promotes teamwork
“I think it helped because we worked together.”
“It helped the class work together. We learned to co-operate.”
“I think it helped the class to work together.”
- Promotes communication
“We were able to talk without shouting at each other.”
“I really like it when all the class is sitting down, and we’re listening to each other. It is very nice.”
“Being able to talk without any interruptions.”
- Helps with making new friends, getting to know other people
“You get to know more people.”
“It helps me learn about other people.”
“I liked talking about how to make good friends and to work harder.”
- Facilitates expression of feelings, to speak out in class
“It helps you to spread your feelings”
“It helped me to let my feelings out.”
“It helped me to get things off my chest.”
- Promotes self confidence and sense of belonging
“I think my class has been helped because it’s helped to get us to be confident.”
“It helped us to know that if something has happened we were not the only ones.”
- Encourages good behaviour, being kind and helpful behaviour
“We learned to help each other and didn’t laugh when people made a try.”
“It helped us to not laugh at opinions.”
“I don’t think there will be any more bullying.”
QCT Circles of support
As early as 1988 (Mosley, 1988) the potential of circle-based support programmes (circles of support) was becoming evident and small group work was explored into the 1990s successfully, using active experiential activities to support pupils who were experiencing social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. In 1991, a school establishing peer support groups in response to the Elton Report found they helped Year 9 and 10 pupils with behavioural and adjustment problems (Shaw, 1991). Another study saw young women, referred for low levels of self-esteem, perceiving themselves as being more competent and confident as a result of circle work (Morris, 1998). Franks (2001) looked at cycles of negative attitude and behaviour. Working in a circle of support with eight mostly Year six boys with emotional and behavioural disorders, the boys became more skilled in expressing their emotions, with indications of improvement in their behaviour. Another study found that Year seven pupils exhibited increased perception of their own social acceptance after ten-weeks of circles of support (Liberman, 2003). Circles of support were also used successfully in 2004 in the Compass for Life project in Stirling (Alcorn, 2004) where trainers, working with people aged between 14 and 25 years, used a multi-agency approach focusing upon employability through participative learning programmes. The participants became more self-aware and developed their thinking and understanding of the world. After a three-month programme, it was reported that the circle of support had helped them understand others better and to appreciate more what they had to say, and stopped the use of put downs in their social interactions.
Circle time and circles of support are widely used in schools in the UK and abroad by various practitioners. The experiences and opportunities offered during such sessions are designed to support children in developing their social, communication, emotional, problem-solving and learning skills. The evidence suggests that both circle time and circles of support contribute to the social and emotional effectiveness of those taking part in the programmes. Moreover, the many reports from educational practitioners and children themselves, as well as the ending popularity of circle time in schools and other contexts, also suggest that circle time and circles of support are found to be helpful and useful by many in the promotion of social and emotional competences in children and young people. Circle times and circles of support continue to be used successfully by enthusiastic practitioners in many different settings. The indication are that circle time and circles of support work and help to make a difference in the social and emotional development of children and young persons. However, more research is urgently needed to examine the impact of circle time and circles of support more thoroughly, extensively and rigorously and to determine the ways this approach works most effectively for children and young persons’ socio-emotional competence.
Alcorn, J. (2004) Post-school learning and self-esteem: using Quality Circle Time in the Stirling Compass for Life Partnership Trowbridge : Jenny Mosley Consultancies
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Bennathon, M. and M. Boxall (2006) The Boxall Profile: Handbook for Teachers (No.7). Network Group: London
Bliss, T., Robinson, G. and Maines, B. (1995) Developing Circle Time: Taking circle time much further. London: Lucky Duck
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Dawson and McNess (1997) A Report on the Use of Circle Time in Wiltshire Primary Schools Report commissioned by Wiltshire Local Education Authority. Unpublished.
DfES (2005) Excellence and Enjoyment: Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL)
Nottingham: DFES Publications
Franks, G. (2001) Can Circle Time facilitate the learning of emotional expression and competence in boys with severe EBD? Unpublished M.Ed. Thesis, School of Education, University of Bristol, UK
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Higgins, S, Wall, K, Baumfield, V, Hall, E, Leat, D. and Woolner, P. with Clark, J, Edwards, G, Falzon, C, Jones, H, Lofthouse, R, Miller, J, Moseley, D, McCaughey, C, and Mroz, M. (2006) Learning to Learn in Schools Phase 3 Evaluation: Year Two Report. 2006. London: Campaign for Learning.
Lee, K. (2006) More than a feeling: developing the emotionally literate secondary school. Nottingham: National College for School Leadership
Liberman, J. (2003) Can a circle of support help to boost the self-concept, social skills and modify the behaviour of pupils in year 7 at a secondary school? Unpublished M.Ed. Thesis, School of Education, University of Bristol, UK
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Morris, A. (1998) Groupwork with self referred young women with low self-esteem Unpublished M.Ed. Thesis, School of Education, University of Bristol, UK
Morris, E. and Morris, K. (2002) The Powerhouse: An All-in-One Resource for Building Self-Esteem in Primary Schools London: Lucky Duck
Morris, E. and Casey, J. (2005) Developing Emotionally Literate Staff: A Practical Guide London: Paul Chapman Educational Publishing
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Jenny Mosley, founder of Quality Circle Time, is well known for her inspiring talks, lectures and workshops. Her books and resources have received wide and enthusiastic acclaim. She leads a successful consultancy company that provides unique training for all educators. Her pioneering work was featured in 1991 on Just One Chance, BBC, and has received enormous interest from schools and parents. Jenny taught on the M-Ed programme at Bristol University for 15 years. Jenny wrote the circle time guidance for the UK’s DCFS Primary and Secondary National Strategy Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning toolkits (SEAL) and due to her commitment to purposeful play she is a member of the QCA Physical Education and School Sports (PESS) Steering Committee.