Atkinson House School has adopted an approach called ‘Thrive’. 

What is Thrive? 

Thrive is an approach which uses advances in neuroscience to help us to understand how we develop socially and emotionally from birth through to adulthood.  The Thrive Approach is a specific way of working with children that helps to develop their social and emotional wellbeing.  The Thrive Approach offers practical, effective tools and techniques that work closely alongside an online assessment and action planning tool, all of which is underpinned by a programme of training and mentoring support. Thrive provides targeted interventions to help support and enhance our pupils’ emotional and social wellbeing.

Here at Atkinson House School we feel that by embedding the Thrive Approach we are supporting the development of happy, confident young people who are more self-assured and therefore ready and open to learning.

“Learning Outside the Classroom Manifesto (DfES 2006) and benefits such as physical (Pellegrini and Smith 1998) and emotional and social wellbeing (Perry 2001) are claimed.”

“Spitzer (2006) reminds us that the brain is always learning and that it is not just in designated contexts such as the classroom that this occurs.”

How does the Thrive Approach benefit our children?

Each and every child is a unique person, constantly developing and learning in different ways and at different rates. The Thrive Approach can identify if our boys have experienced any ‘gaps’ in their emotional development and give us the tools needed to best support them. Through doing so, Thrive enables us to make sure they all have the support they need to reach their full potential. Thrive helps our children become more self-assured, capable and adaptive when faced with challenges. 

 Thrive is underpinned by a theoretical base in child development theory and attachment theory. At its heart is the understanding that all children’s behaviour represents a form of communication – of their underlying unmet needs. If these needs are recognised and met, children and young people will be able to flourish and learn.

Thrive does not ask what has happened in a child or young person’s past. Instead, the child’s current developmental needs are assessed and solutions provided to address these. The Thrive Approach is designed to help your children become ready to learn and thrive.

Our Room

The room provides the boys with a calm, relaxing, safe space in school where they can enjoy their tailor-made Thrive interventions with our Thrive practitioner. Here they can regulate, meditate, read, reflect on their behaviour, learn to express their feelings and manage their emotions.  We have a tent they can hide away in, play games, music or art and crafts. They often will sit with a hot chocolate or juice and reflect on their school day or choose to bring their work along and enjoy the calmness and peace that the room offers. 

Our room is also a safe place for the boys when in crisis or dysregulated.  They will come and regulate with support and leave when they are ready to return to learning / lesson. An oil diffuser is in regular use – the boys will often choose a fragrance they like from mint, lavender, ylang ylang, eucalyptus and ginger. They will sit quietly and sense what’s going on around them, what they can hear and how they are feeling.

One way we teach the young person how to self-regulate is by providing them with a designated space with the sole intent of being a safe space for the boys to go to when they feel their emotions are running too high and they need to regain their emotional and physical control. These spaces are equipped with comforting objects and soothing materials that can promote mindfulness, breathing and reflection.

Our whole school approach to address each and every young person’s needs in school is to attune to their needs by using Thrive’s Vital Relational Functions (VRFs): each time we interact with a young person in school we consider their needs by using the VRFs.

Vital Relational Functions (VRFs)
  • Attune – match the child’s energy using your body, face and voice.
  • Validate – let the young person know that it’s ok to have the feeling.
  • Contain – be alongside as a helpful, supportive adult.
  • Regulate – soothe or stimulate the young person back to social engagement.

Each interaction with the boys is an intervention which takes place throughout the school day. We deliver great quality interventions, develop a strong trusting relationship with our young people. We are good role models and by being adult role models we are helping to fill the social and emotional development of the young people we work with…we are doing it day in and day out.

“Recognising the power of relationships and relational cues is essential to effective therapeutic work and, indeed, to effective parenting, care giving, teaching and just about any other human endeavour”

Perry, B 2006: 67

At Atkinson House School we celebrate the way the boys engage, adapt, attune, make progress, and learn to regulate their emotional state independently. This is accomplished through our curriculum and bespoke timetables to suit the needs of the individual learner. We deliver therapeutic activities such as Horse Care, Forest School, Play Therapy, and Thrive. 

Progress isn’t always measured on paper”


At school we also encourage the boys to keep active. Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts your overall mood. You don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits. Research indicates that modest amounts of exercise can make a difference. 

More information is available

Atkinson House staff are also encouraged to join in…well some of us!  We all know the benefits so we try to factor in some exercise to the classroom over and above the PE quota. Here on site the boys can benefit from trampolining, archery, football, cricket, basketball, assault course, gymnastics and much more. All sorts of resources are available.  We have used Go Noodle and Just Dance on YouTube. Exercise also breaks up the day and increases concentration so is also extremely beneficial for learning.

“Promoting physical and mental health in schools creates a virtuous circle reinforcing children’s attainment and achievement that in turn improves their wellbeing, enabling children to thrive and achieve their full potential.” Brooks F (2013).

Whole School Approach

“In order to support pupils with a mental health problem, it is important to reach all parts of our school community and beyond, as teachers, parents and other staff will also be affected. A whole-school approach is an ideal way to bring about changes.”

Atkinson House School provides a wide variety of opportunities the boys can enjoy and where their individual needs are provided for. Each boy in school has an educational health care plan (EHCP), a therapeutic profile, a Thrive profile and, in some cases, a learning journal.  These documents provide our pupils with the necessary tools to access a broad and bespoke curriculum giving them the best chance to make not only academic progress, but the social skills and life skills they will need to access the wider community and beyond.

If they can’t learn the way we teach, we will teach them the way they learn”

A priority set out by the Green Paper, ‘Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision’ is to build whole school environments and to develop approaches within which pupils can achieve their full potential. Schools should have a clear offer to promote pupils’ mental health and wellbeing, and to protect them from bullying, are therefore priorities for the Department for Education (DfE). DH and DfE (2017) Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision: A Green Paper

Atkinson House School ethos: “Several minds working together to provide the best learning experience by accessing the best resources, and ensuring these are made available to all.”  P.Sampson 2020.

Parents and Carers Section

Experts tell us that our children’s behaviour is their way of communicating an unmet need, often because they do not yet have the language to tell us. By helping you understand children’s social and emotional development, we enable you to help your children become confident, curious, emotionally resilient and more engaged with both life and learning.

Thrive monthly newsletters: access here

A free toolkit of strategies and activities to help you now!  The parent toolkit provides:

  • Information and an animation explaining the different, age-related stages of a child’s social and emotional development.
  • Short films showing two families sharing the impact this knowledge of Thrive has had on them.
  • Hints and tips for looking after yourselves.
  • Carefully selected, age-appropriate strategies and activities for you to try with your children at home.
  • A facility for you to expand and personalise the toolkit for you and your children.

Useful Links

The Thrive Approach Website –

Books    (Spark programme)

Contact: Deborah Notley on (0191) 298 0838

Licensed Thrive Practitioner and Learning Community Support

BA (Hons.) Learning, Family Schools and Beyond