Caring for the emotional well-being of its pupils has long been a priority for Latchmere School, a popular primary in Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey. Yet, with about 700 children on roll, it can be harder for Latchmere to keep track of how its pupils are feeling than a smaller school.
Every morning and afternoon, the key stage 2 teachers take a "feelings register" of their class. Rather than responding with just a "Yes" or "Present", the children give a number from one to 10, with 10 indicating that they are feeling as happy as possible. Pupils can also add a word or a short sentence, such as "Nine - amazing" or "10 - I've got football this afternoon".
"It's very quick - usually just a number and an adjective," says headteacher Julie Ritchie. "Sometimes a teacher will ask 'Why?' to get them to expand. Generally you get nines and 10s, but sometimes they will say a low number, which could be for a reason such as their dog has died."
If a pupil is upset, it allows a teacher to intervene themselves, get support from the school's student councillor or let other members of staff know there is a problem.
Ritchie says that the afternoon register is especially important as it allows teachers to help patch up any quarrels that have occurred between children in the playground. "Otherwise the child would go home and dwell on it and the first time they would tell anyone about it would probably be their parent just as they were putting them to bed."
The school first heard about feelings registers about seven years ago, but has since refined it to make the approach its own. Each class also contains a board with the numbers and a series of moveable pictures of pupils so that the children or their teachers can shift them around to show how they are feeling.
Latchmere now uses the Building Learning Power approach to teaching (see TESpro, 6 January) and believes that its feelings register complements that programme's emphasis on helping pupils to become more "resilient". The school also has a special "Blue Room", which classes visit for quiet reflection and meditation.
Tips from the scheme
- Don't cramp teachers' style by insisting that the register is done in a particular way - let them find what is best in their class.
- "I wouldn't say it works 100 per cent of the time," Ritchie notes. So do try other methods for getting an idea of how pupils are feeling. At Latchmere, classroom assistants take books out into the playground at the start of the day so that parents can note down any information teachers might need.
Evidence that it works?
Staff at Latchmere believe that its range of approaches to promoting pupil well-being, including feelings registers, are crucial to its success. The school is one of few in England rated "outstanding" in every category by inspectors, who noted that "the very positive learning environment is a result of the outstanding levels of care, guidance and support shown by all adults for the personal development and well-being of each pupil". It was shortlisted for primary school of the year in the 2010 TES Schools Awards.
To nominate a school for this year's TES Schools Awards, visit www.tes.co.ukawards
Approach: Using a "feelings register"
Started: About 2006
Name: Latchmere School, Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey
Pupils: About 700
Age range: 3-11
Intake: Serves a diverse community, with about a third of pupils from ethnic minority backgrounds
Headteacher: Julie Ritchie
Ofsted overall rating: Outstanding (2009).