In the spirit of a new year, when people make fresh starts or try different things, we have been thinking about how we could increase the audience who receive our information about inclusion and wellbeing. We have therefore reached the conclusion that it is nonsensical to keep INCLUSION separate to the other information and ideas we share with the LGfL education community; since it really goes against the spirit of making ALL schools and classrooms more inclusive for all.
With this in mind, this will be the last blog post from this account. In the future, we will continue to share resources, interesting articles and links to other information about inclusion and wellbeing in a much more integrated way, via the main Curriculum Blogs. We hope that you see this as a positive move (and that it will also help in schools to make more staff aware of the inclusion and wellbeing resources). However, we would encourage you to subscribe to the IncludED newsletter if you don’t already do so. This remains a separate newsletter to the curriculum one, for the foreseeable future, ensuring news and information pertinent to the SENDCO/Inclusion Leader roles goes straight to your inbox.
We have also just launched IncludED in 5, which is a collection of short videos which cover technology, features, techniques and tools to support inclusion. They are all 5 minutes or less in length and delivered as clearly and simply as possible.
Another new resource is LGfLs Big Inclusive Calendar. This is a calendar of important inclusion awareness dates throughout the year with links to relevant websites and resources. We hope that this will help make it easier to keep track of these worthwhile days and enable schools to make the most of the opportunities to understand and celebrate our differences. There is also a link which will enable you to add the dates and info to your own diary whether that’s on a smartphone, outlook or other calendars you use.
You can also keep up to date with all things Inclusion and Wellbeing by following us on social media.
We are pleased to announce our new resource, Wellbeing Connected – Promoting Mental Health and Well Being support in Primary Schools. This open access resource has been designed to bring the key information in both video and text format with a quick and accessible interface for schools.
An NHS Survey in 2017 found that 12.8 percent of five to 19-year-olds had at least one mental disorder when assessed, with emotional disorders being the most common disorder among school-age children, affecting 8.1 per cent.
The Teacher wellbeing Index 2018 found that more than three-quarters of teachers surveyed experienced work-related behavioural, psychological or physical symptoms and more than half were considering leaving the profession due to poor health.
Schools are in a unique position when it comes to the mental health of the children in their care, to shape and influence the mental health and wellbeing of their pupils and prepare them for the challenges and opportunities ahead. As school staff juggle a multitude of demands, it is essential that everyone within a school community is given the right support so that they in turn can support the pupils in their care. In addition to having a positive impact on colleagues and children, staff wellbeing can improve performance and job satisfaction, which can lead to reduced staff turnover. It can also help to reduce absence (both short and long term), increase productivity and promote staff engagement resulting in a flourishing school environment.
The Wellbeing Connected for Primary Schools resource has been designed to bring the key information featuring experienced practitioners through video and text format with a quick and accessible interface. The resource is grouped into the following areas:
The portal is designed to be used by staff within schools to plan their whole school approach to Mental Health and Wellbeing and how all parts of the school community can be supported. The expert video clips, information packs and carefully curated external links are provided for staff to deliver comprehensive support.
The video below is just one from many featured on the resource and looks at the importance of Mental Health in schools.
Alongside videos, there are also template policies, wellbeing questionnaires and guidance for schools to use and adapt as well as thinking points that can be used as part of staff development looking at the importance of wellbeing for staff, the community and for the video below the importance of Mental Health and Wellbeing for pupils.
Alongside the videos and guidance are top tips from school leaders who have been recognised for their work in promoting Mental Health and Wellbeing. There are also book lists for EYFS/KS1/KS2 and staff that include a range of books that can be used in the classroom as well as to further support all staff in school. An app list is also included featuring a range of free apps for use by students and staff.
“This important resource for all primary schools is the result of our insights working across schools in London and beyond, day in day out. LGfL is uniquely placed to work across a wide range of different contexts and the guidance provides captures the best approaches that we have seen and think others will benefit. It features practical and replicable approaches that can be adapted to each school context for the benefit of the whole school community”. Bob Usher Content Manager LGfL
We hope that this open access resource can be used by all schools to enable them to plan for and deliver effective wellbeing approaches in their schools. Please let us know on either our Twitter or Facebook pages if you use this resource in school.
Where can teachers find good resources to use when running mindfulness sessions with pupils?
First you may want to set the scene or create an atmosphere by preparing the environment and marking a change to usual lessons. Think in terms of all the senses: something special to look at, something nice to smell, touch or hear.
You may want to start by using some relaxing music or background sounds You tube (please see here for You tube access in schools) has plenty of choice, some of my favourites are:
This song is 6.5 mins long ‘Feel the rhythm of your heartbeat’ with memorable, slow, rhythmic, drum beat, very grounding and calming.
Here are a nice recording of rainfall that is relaxing.
For an object to focus on and to start a session this film of a burning candle is useful:
but obviously not quite as good as the real thing!
In addition the free App ‘Insight Timer’ has useful chimes/singing bowls sounding out in timed intervals that you can use for the beginning and end of a session.
For mindfulness activities there are many different places to go for gathering resources: books, Youtube, Ebay and of course your school’s music cupboard to name but a few. Audio Network from LGfL also has a range of tracks that can be used in schools
Young children can be asked to bring in their favourite soft toy to cuddle while doing slow breathing exercises as it helps them to focus on the physical changes of their tummy or chest going in and out as they breath. This expandable toy helps in a similar way. There are also a series of ideas of using the breathe ball here from The Mindful.org
Finding simple, attractive picture books that incorporate mindfulness practices or messages suitable for reading to primary aged children can be challenging but I have found parts of the following books great:
‘A Handful of Quiet’ By Thitch Nhat Hanh. This book certainly has some lovely drawings, useful scripts and a few nice practical ideas e.g how to use objects from nature such as pebbles to initiate discussion and introduce mindfulness concepts. It gave me ideas for props and analogies.
For a free online resource for young children nursery to Year 2 Cosmic Kids Yoga, Peace Out and Zen Den are very popular.
For older children this is a great 12 minute meditation with a female english voice
Making resources for a mindfulness session can give it more importance and links to other planning such as DT, Music or ART. For example you could make home made rain sticks or calming musical compositions with garageband or the like.
Calming a busy mind can be demonstrated and visualised by making a jumbled thoughts jar (e.g. glitter in a jar of water) and can then later be used as a self-calming resource too.
Children are encouraged to shake it about and look through it and watch how if you stop and wait, your view of the world (or through your jar) becomes clearer. I have found children with complex needs autism, early years and Key Stage one classes love making their own to take home but don’t forget to explain their special purpose to parents otherwise they may get thrown out. There is a simple guide to how to make here.
Another winner to improve focus is using an egg timer to practice concentrating by keeping eyes utterly fixed on the falling sand until it runs out and then increasing the length of time and timer.
I have sometimes given out egg timer certificates for different lengths of time to incentivise those who need something a little more concrete to show how they are learning to pay attention to the present moment on purpose for increasing amounts of time.
Helping children to better know their own minds through these simple activities can have a profound effect on children’s ability to regulate their emotions and behaviour, socialisation, readiness to learn and resilience during exams if carried out with an open mind, sensitivity and regularity.
Many thanks to Marissa for sharing her expertise through these 3 blog posts, Marissa spoke at our Be Well conference this year and you can see her talk below:
How do the words we use make a difference in delivering a mindfulness session in class?
The tone of voice used by someone delivering a mindfulness activity can have a significant effect on people. So too can their choice of words. It is helpful to use words that are reassuring and encouraging to participants but they must also be words that you feel entirely comfortable to use. It can be useful to use phrases that are new and particular to just these sessions so that it all feels very different to what we normally do at school and a little bit special. If you are uncomfortable with them so will your pupils be!
Children and young people often fear the unknown and may come to a mindfulness session with preconceptions and expectations. So it is important to create an open, welcoming and relaxed environment that is different from their everyday school lesson experience. Dimming the lights, playing calming music and having a ‘bridging activity’ to enter the room like taking off shoes, can help the participants fully arrive as it were, in a different time and space separating them from some of the previous moments.
Our engagement and participation in an unfamiliar activity can be vastly increased if we don’t feel pressured to join in. So using phrases such as ‘I invite you to …’ are often used. However, this might seem a step too far for some students or younger children so I tend to say ‘’You may want to try….’ Or ‘See if you can…’ instead. We want children and young people to actively choose to participate rather than feeling that they have to. Allowing them to make choices in how they take part helps enormously. Saying things like ‘some people like keeping their eyes open, some like to close them and that’s ok’ or ‘ some people choose to sit on a chair, some like to sit cross legged on the floor and that is all fine’.
Teaching self-compassion and kindness by saying such phrases as ‘……as best you can’ allows pupils to not feel that they have to be doing this new thing perfectly straight away. ‘I’m learning to …and I can’t yet…’ can be useful phrases. Analogies can work well to e.g. Be patient with yourself like you would to a puppy wandering off the lead or a baby learning to walk and falling many times before managing to walk. ‘Minds wander – that’s OK – that’s just what they do’. This helps people see that learning to be mindful takes time and practise with many hic-ups along the way. Like learning to ride a bike we fall often but keep trying.
Analogies reinforce by creating a picture in the mind.
thoughts are like clouds in the sky,
leaves floating down a river,
train carriages trundling past that you notice and then see pass.
We can name our thoughts‘that’s worrying, that’s planning, that’s remembering’ and then ‘Let go of ….’ them and judgements.
To help bring attention to something we can use words such as
Pay attention to …
Notice without trying to change anything,
see what’s there however it is,
Move your attention to… s
See just how it is,
here, right now,
in the present moment’
‘Bringing our attention to …’
This can be challenging and so participants need reassurance at regular intervals and affirming statements such as
‘You might notice a feeling,
a thought, or you might not’
‘You might feel…or … or nothing at all’
Careful use of questions is important keeping them as open and non-judgemental as possible to foster a comfortable atmosphere e.g.
‘How was that?’
‘does anyone want to share anything having tried that?’
‘Tell me about that….and anything else?’
Teaching and practicing mindfulness using careful communication we intend not to block out thoughts or feelings but to develop a greater awareness and acceptance of them whether they are positive or negative. We are all individuals who experience the world differently and ‘THAT’S OK!’.
Interested in using mindfulness in your class or school but not sure where to start
This is the first in a series of 3 blog posts that we will be publishing over the next three weeks on the topic of Mindfulness in school, huge thanks to Marissa Tighe a Specialist Teacher in Tower Hamlets Support For Learning Service (Language and Communication Team) and independent SEND Consultant offering training, supervision and parent support for her help and advice in putting these posts together
“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally,”Kabat-Zinn creator of the research-backed stress-reduction program Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).
There are three essential aspects to mindfulness practice:
Connection – training the mind to settle and focus, using the breath and body as an anchor
Curiosity – developing interest in experience and a willingness to investigate experience
Care – developing a spirit of non-judgemental ‘friendliness’ towards self and experience
Marissa recommends experiencing some mindfulness activities yourself before trying them in a classroom.
There are many books that guide you through a mindfulness program but I have to say there is nothing better than the first-hand experience and dialogue you get from attending a group mindfulness course over a period of time! But do your research and ask the teacher questions before signing up to a course. I have attended many courses and can assure you that receiving guidance from someone who has fully integrated mindfulness practises into their daily life over time, feels very different than from someone who has taken the short route to teaching mindfulness as a business
There are many good free apps available and so much to explore on the internet. Many people start with downloading the app ‘Headspace’which often has special offers on subscriptions to the full package and there are many good Headspace you tube clips to watch too – the video below looks at getting started with headspace.
The video guides have some great cartoons and is a good introduction to stress and anxiety reduction through mindfulness techniques, including one looking at Meditation for children:
A personal favourite App of mine is called Insight Timer. It has over 15,000 free meditations from 3,000 teachers worldwide to choose from. It also has talks and courses led by the world’s top experts in neuroscience, psychology and universities, featuring both male and female voices.
Choosing a meditation led by someone whose voice you like the sound of is very important as a voice may irritate one person and not another which is one distraction you can do without. The app called CALMhas meditations too but is great for those who find sleep challenging and I love the sound of Stephen Fry’s voice on there that guides you through a slow, dreamy, sleep story using visualisation techniques which makes me nod off in minutes.
They have recently launched The Calm Schools Initiative. They are offering every teacher in the world free access to Calm, the mindfulness app that hundreds of thousands of people all over the world use everyday. Their aim is to empower teachers with mindfulness tools and resources they can use to help kids learn this new skill.
Under this initiative, any teacher with a K-12 classroom, anywhere in the world, can get free access to Calm’s paid subscription service (available on Android, iOS and the web). Teachers will have unlimited access to our growing library of guided meditations and mindfulness exercises, including Calm Kids, their programs tailored for age groups from pre-K through high school. Over the coming year, they will be steadily adding to the Calm Kids library, equipping teachers with an ever-expanding supply of content crafted for the unique needs of their students. Their goal is to onboard 100,000 classrooms this year, improving the lives of over 1 million children.
If you’re a teacher, just take 30 seconds to fill out the simple form, and you’ll be approved for The Calm Schools Initiative within a few days. Once you’re approved, they’ll send you some on-boarding resources to help you get started. They will also share tips, suggestions, and best practices to introduce mindfulness to your classroom and get your students excited about meditation.
There are a range of books on the topic but two that Marissa recommends are:
It is an easy-to-follow, evidence based 8 week mindfulness program training ourselves to respond differently to depression, stress and anxiety in a more skilful way using mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT) techniques. It includes a CD rom with guided mindfulness practices.
This is an eight week guide to learn and practise on your own with links to online meditation tracks.
There are also a range of fun and light hearted mindfulness activities that you can try with young children to get started.
Cosmic Kids Zen Den is a good place to start. A fun series about mindfulness for kids aged 5+. Jaime makes mindfulness relevant for kids, helping them develop awareness of their emotions and sharing techniques for self-regulation. From the makers of Cosmic Kids Yoga, written and starring Jaime.
For introductory information and to find a local, introductory course (or one online) Marissa recommends either:
The next post will focus on how the words we use can make a difference to delivering a mindfulness session in class. If you have used mindfulness in school and have other resources/videos/books that would be useful in class then please let us know
Would a professional athlete perform without stretching? Would a world-class singer go on the stage without warming up their vocal cords? If they did, would they perform as well? The answer to both of these questions is – no. For many learners, handwriting is an extremely strenuous endeavour. Nevertheless, we as teachers often expect our pupils to go from teacher input or a discussion straight into writing with no warm up and certainly no cool down afterwards. It isn’t fair, it isn’t logical and we can do something about it right now.
The LGfL IncludED team were excited to launch our newest resource, Learning Through Movement at the LGfL curriculum conference yesterday. This resource was the brainchild of the wonderful Jo Dilworth (my predecessor) who worked with Sheena Rufus (OT) to create a training tool to help practitioners and parents to understand how and why movement is so important for learning for ALL children.
The resource is divided into the following 5 easy to access sections:
Each section has been created to be as simple and accessible to anyone who wants to ensure they are supporting learners as effectively as possible. There are some great video demonstrations in addition to downloadable resources to help get you started. We’ve also provided links to direct you to a wealth of further recommended resources.
Here we explain why movement is so important to support the development of vital learning skills/abilities and to detail what some of these skills/abilities are; including markers for the age you can typically expect these to develop and how to spot if a learner is having difficulty and needs help.
Breaks down the highly complex mix of skills which are required to write effectively and goes through each aspect individually, offering simple ideas to support learners who are having difficulty. It also covers the importance of warming up the muscles and pathways required for writing as well as cooling down afterwards.
Delves into the vital nature of movement breaks and how to very simply and effectively build these into your classroom practice. In my years of teaching, I have found that a good understanding of learners’ need for movement to help maintain focus has had a huge impact. In my opinion, as a behaviour support specialist/trainer, a lot of challenging behaviour that occurs in classrooms can be traced back to learners being unable to focus for one reason or another. I’d go as far as to say this section really is essential reading for all class based staff in schools.
Provides some good examples of the type of activity practitioners can build into sensory circuits and why these activities are so beneficial to all learners, especially those with additional needs. Have a look at this section; as you might be surprised by how easy it is to run sensory circuits using equipment you already have in your PE cupboard.
TheInterventionssection gives some practical examples of interventions that can be put in place to help support the development of:
All of which are important skills for learners to master in order to be able to access their learning effectively.
The wealth of advice contained in this resource and the skills and understanding it can provide to staff can make a huge difference to your learners, all learners not just those identified as having SEND. Feel free to comment on this post. Also, let us know how you get on with the resource, or if there is more you’d like us to produce in this area of education.
Next month I will be attending an event in Westminster with a focus on how this strategy relates to SEND and Inclusion. I felt that the document echoed what LGfL and many members of our community have been saying and doing for quite some time. It seems our voices are being heard. This being the case, I would like to ask you, our IncludED community:
Have you read this yet?
If so what are your thoughts?
What issues around assistive technology, SEND and Edtech would you like to have raised?
You may be going to this event yourself. You may already have spoken to someone from your school or local authority who is. But if not let me have your thoughts as soon as possible so we can ensure that this momentum is used to make a real difference in your classroom, school, setting or LA.
Please leave your comments here or feel free to use our IncludED social media if you prefer.
‘My name is Lily and I am a young person who has been suffering with an anxiety disorder for most of my teenage life. At 12 years old I had my first panic attack. It was during a citizenship lesson and I remember everything down to what my teacher was wearing, the song that was playing and the smell of the classroom as we had just come out of food tech. It wasn’t triggered and I didn’t know what caused this toe-curling fear throughout my body, which made the whole event a lot more terrifying.
I asked my teacher if I could be excused from the class, as I wasn’t feeling well. I paced the humanities corridor with my heart beating at what felt like 1000 beats per minute. Then, my stomach started twisting, my throat became stuck in that stage where you feel as though you are about to cry and my breath became harder to catch. My ears started to strain from the inside of my body (as if my brain was an orchestra and I was the conductor) and my eyes started to fuzz before being rushed to the outside of the school where my teacher calmed me down and made me drink a glass of water.
I thought I had a terrible disease that had gotten so bad my body was dying. Those 10 minutes of panic changed my life and soon it became a pattern for that to happen every time I was in that class. Then a string of these types of events became more common until I was unable to attend school without having to leave lessons every 15 minutes.
It began to affect me outside of school one such episode was when I was out in London one weekend. I had been doing something that I’d enjoyed since I was a little girl, walking around Carnaby Street and getting something to eat with my Dad and brother. I couldn’t understand why I felt as though I was constantly on the edge of a cliff with someone repeatedly shouting at me to jump off (the someone being my anxiety and the cliff being my panic attacks).
I told my mum about this constant worry that I was dying and she spoke to me about my families’ history of mental illness and it was her decision to get me seen by specialists. I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder with a sign of moderate Depression at 14 years old.
And so began a cycle of seeing Clinical Psychologists, NHS doctors, countless therapists and psychiatrists whom all offered me different advice with an equally disappointing outcome. There was nothing that they could do.
This led me into a deep depression where I started to think that because nobody important seemed to care about my anxiety there was no point in attempting to get better. I started self-harming. Thankfully this didn’t last long (around 5 months or so) until my parents decided to, despite advice from my school and CAMHS, take me straight into Northwick Park Hospital to get some immediate action put in place. I was 15 years old and it was the worst my anxiety and depression had ever been. I left the hospital in the early hours of the morning with my parents determined to get me help.
I am so beyond thankful for my family. Members of my extended family started talking to me about their experiences with mental illness and most of them seemed as though they had overcome the challenges that were thrown in their way.
At this time, family became even more important to me, as I had lost friends who blamed my lack of interest in them on my anxiety and claimed it was something I was doing for attention. If you have a friend suffering from any kind of mental illness DO NOT say it is for attention. We already feel as though the outside world views us as people who indulge in self-pity please do not make us believe this even more.
The things I have missed out on due to my anxiety consist of: holidays, parties, my own birthday, baby showers, my GCSE exams, school trips, family get-togethers, prom and so many more.
All these ended in a similar way, me alone in my bedroom wrapped under the duvet with my mirrors turned back-to-front to face the wall and my curtains drawn. I was taken out of school and took 7 months to try and find something that worked for me. It was hellish and included doing lots of things I didn’t want to do (like travelling on public transport, leaving my house, going to see friends). Not to mention at this point I had been on anti-depressants for over a year and still the dosage was being messed around with.
This time a year ago I was just starting at an online school and I had no idea if my anxiety would ever improve. I am sat here now as a 17 year old Lily who’s taking her GCSE’s this summer, going to the gym twice a week, doing volunteer work at my old primary school. I’m constantly doing things outside of my comfort zone like going to museums and art galleries. The other week I travelled on the bus for the first time alone and I went to the shops to buy a pot noodle! Now some people hearing this may think, “well, I was doing that when I was 9 years old that kind of stuff is easy!”. To those people, I say good on you. Good on you for not having to suffer to the extent that I, and so many others, have. Truly, be thankful. But to those of you that can relate and understand how difficult it is to start recovering from a mental illness (whether you have experienced it yourself or somebody close to you has) you deserve to be heard.
I really hope to prove to people that things will get better and life can taste sweeter. It’s so easy for someone to say, but coming from someone who used to turn their nose up at that phrase, just try to believe me. Now things aren’t yet amazing; I’m still struggling every day at dealing with my anxiety and some days I wake up knowing that it’s going to be a tricky day. But just because it’s a bad day, it doesn’t mean that it’s a bad life.
Eating disorders are complex disorders that can have many underlying causes which tend to manifest during adolescence. There are multiple types of eating disorders and it is crucial to recognise the symptoms early on.
Dr Ann York, Healthy London Partnership Clinical Advisor for Children and Young People’s Mental Health, said:
“We are delighted to publish these guidelines for primary care professionals. They have been created in partnership with GPs, eating disorder specialists and Beat, the UK’s eating disorders charity. GPs told us they wanted clear information on how to manage and support children and young people with a suspected eating disorder, so we are pleased to be able to share these guidelines and ultimately help young people and their families access the treatment they need.
The key message is that if primary care professionals suspect a child or young person has an eating disorder, they should be referred immediately to their local CYP CEDS.”
The guidelines provide an overview of:
· Red flag symptoms
· What to look out for and consider
· When to refer and assessment timescales
· Information which should be included in the referral
· Contact information for the seven London CYP CEDS
The guidelines also include the Beat ‘Eating Disorder – Know the first signs’ resource, and information about Beat support services.
The guidelines are also included in the Healthy London Partnership Primary Care Children and Young People’s Toolkithere.
There are many inclusive and multisensory resources on LGfL which you can use to support your learners’ creativity and communication in the run up to Christmas, and also during other religious festivals and celebrations. Here are some of our top 5 resources to engage all learners, including those with SEND and EAL this Christmas:
2. There are some excellent symbolised activities, created by Widgit to support Christmas. If you are from an LGfL or TRUSTnet school, click on the links below to view and use a wealth of accessible and engaging materials with your learners with SEND and EAL.
3. As usual, Busy Things has produced a large range of Christmas resources as well as many others to support many other festivals and celebrations. Click on search when you visit the site to find out more or click on Special Events and Festivals.
4. There are 245 Christmas Tracks at www.audionetwork.lgfl.net . If you’ve had enough of the same old Christmas songs, search and download to listen to more. Why not use these to facilitate some creative writing this Christmas season? There are also a range of tracks which can be used during other festivals and events. Don’t forget The BBC Sound Effects to support too.
5. Many accessible and multimedia based resources on 6 World Faiths can be found at www.faiths.lgfl.net which have been created by Espresso. Visit this site to view some short videos and accompanying resources, including videos and activities for Christmas.