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Puzzling through emotions

FINDING TIME outside the curriculum is the Holy Grail for most teachers, but one school has managed to find an entire morning for pupils to develop emotional literacy.

For the past two months, Year 7s (S1s) at Lakers School in Coleford, in the Forest of Dean, have spent a morning each fortnight on the Seven-up programme to help them move to secondary with confidence and independent thinking.

Headteacher Alison Elliot conducted a curriculum review, cutting out repetition of the same topic across different subjects, to find the extra time.

The project, run with Creative Partnerships, a group set up to develop pupils' potential, uses ideas on learning styles to look at why and how knowledge is gained.

Having a grammar school in the area meant brighter children were siphoned off, which could leave those left behind feeling insecure about their ability.

All the Year 7s at Lakers spend four hours a fortnight working on individual, cross-curricular projects using the theme of "identity" to help them understand how they fit into school, life and the community. Finished pieces can take the form of a song, painting, sculpture or poem. A second theme of "aspirations" then encourages them to think about future careers.

The idea is that by understanding their own learning style, and developing independent learning skills, the children will perform better in the wider curriculum and raise attainment across the school.

Mrs Elliot said: "It is about their self-esteem and about seeing themselves positively, becoming people who want to learn."

Pupils discovered failure could be positive - as long as it was reflected on and learned from. Confidence was the key.

Music teacher Rebekah Hooper said: "Only when (children) develop a sense of who they are, can they tackle their future aspirations."

Pupils and teachers talked about the new approach at a recent conference run by the School of Emotional Literacy, at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh.

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