Whole School Approaches and Individual Support

Developing Whole School Approaches  - and ultimately creating an inclusive culture

Some Parents and Carers report their children are highly sensitive to being seen as ‘different’ at school because of their family backgrounds.  They suggest that whole school approaches to support their children to manage change would help to address these concerns.  

‘Consider whether you can change the whole system rather than creating special arrangements for one child who then stands out as different’.

‘Inclusivity comes through using a whole school approach  – not [automatically] treating X child as different’ 

  • Building in sensory regulation strategies throughout the day across the school can also help all children and young people settle to learn.  Additionally, it will help already challenged children avoid a build-up of stress that will inevitably burst out at some point – whether at school or home.  Music, rhythm, brain breaks, task cards (e.g. please sort out the pencils), meditation, mindfulness, squishies, doodle sheets are among many strategies being used in schools to help young people to regulate.  For more primary age ideas see Whole Class Happy Pack, Inner World Works, http://www.innerworldwork.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/WholeClass-Happy-Pack.pdf  and for all ages https://beaconhouse.org.uk/wpcontent/uploads/Brainstem-Calmer-Activities.pdf  .  Remember that different types of strategies may increase dysregulation for some children - so you will need to bear their needs in mind when selecting whole class regulation activities. 

‘Many children with difficult early life experiences have (unconscious) fears about the safety and trustworthiness of adults. A quiz can be a fun transition activity to help them ask the questions they have about the new teacher. This quiz can include the whole class and can be facilitated by the current class teacher: what is the new teacher’s favourite colour, have they got any pets, do they like chocolate’

Transitions Tips for Transition Time at School, 2018, The Centre for Adoption Support https://www.centreforadoptionsupport.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/CfAS-Tips-forTransition-Time-at-School.pdf  

Supporting individual children and young people

It is really important to remind ourselves that transitions such as moving on to Secondary School can be really exciting and positive for children and young people, as well as feeling challenging. Focussing on the strengths of a young person to manage the change, as well as on the potential gains can help create a positive narrative shared between home and school.

  • Individual ‘Heat’ Maps* can be carried out so that children and young people can have a ‘walk’ through of the school day (like a safety walk) and scale each element of it from cool green to red hot (consider linking to Just Right state language). For example, in Secondary: o leaving home to travel to school o arriving at school o form time o getting to first lesson o moving to another lesson or break etc. You can then explore with the young person what strategies can be put in place that are preventative and identify together what might help build their resilience to manage particular issues. * Concept heard at Trauma Informed Schools, Beacon House, Stuart Guest – Head Teacher. 


‘Know who can help and where to go if things get too much Parents/Carers’

  • Strategies to prevent the build-up of stress need to be backed up by clear plans for what to do if things reach boiling point or boil over.  This applies to children and young people as well as to parents and carers and should be a core part of the plan to support a child.  Bear in mind that ‘time in’ relationship may often be more appropriate than ‘time out’, unless ‘time out’ still enables connection.
  •  ‘Offer a ‘safe place’ or ‘base’ or ‘chill out zone’ for pupils to use if they cannot cope with the rigours of secondary school experiences.’ 
  • Link the pupil transitioning with a secondary school ‘buddy’ - begins from early visits.’

From Moving On – Suggestions for busy teachers to support pupils with SEN moving from primary to secondary school, 2013, Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, Mental Health Foundation https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/moving-on-15042013-d2125.pdf

  • Establish who will be the main point of ongoing contact in school for the parent/carer (and alternatives if they are not available) including preferred contact method and time.  Will it be the Designated Teacher for Looked After Children and Previously Looked after Children (i.e. children in care and previously in care) – SENCO - Head of Year - Key Adult - School Office or Base, for example?

‘Recognise that change is inevitable and although we can try to make things seamless the real world gets in the way’


When something unexpected happens it helps if it’s communicated clearly by someone known to the child/young person whenever possible using the steps:

  1. connecting with the child/young person,
  2. naming the change (why, how long for, what will happen instead) acknowledging that they might be feeling wobbly and 
  3. reminding them about their successful strategies and 
  4. when they’ve coped well before/in a similar situation


  • Letting parents/carers know about the change can be useful even if it’s already happened - so that they can plan de-stressors and respond to any fall-out. Similarly, parents/carers can be asked to let schools know any changes in routine at home which may have an effect on school life, such as birth family contact for example.
  • Consider with parents/carers and pupil best strategies in advance for dealing with school events that are not routine such as: Sports Day, Curriculum Outings, Fancy Dress/Non-school uniform days, Plays and Special Assemblies.  The content of some of these may be challenging, not just the change in routine: an NSPCC presentation in assembly, or a wartime ‘evacuation’ role play, for example








Last modified: Friday, 5 June 2020, 2:43 PM