Castle Wood

Together, children first...

Thrive at Castle Wood 

What is Thrive?

Thrive promotes children’s positive mental health by helping adults know how to be and what to do in response to their differing and dysregulated behaviour and emotions.

Thrive is heavily grounded by neuroscience, attachment theory and child development and is relevant for children from 0-18 years. There are 6 different stages of Thrive based upon a neurotypical developing child;

  1. Being 0-6 months
  2. Doing 6-18 months
  3. Thinking 18 months – 3 years
  4. Power and identity 3-7 years
  5. Skills and structure 7-11 years
  6. Separation and sexuality 11-18 years

Thrive has an online tool that enables staff to assess where pupils are at with their development and supports staff to identify what the gaps are and activties, resources and strategies to fill the gaps. 

What are Castle Wood School’s core values?

Castle Wood School’s core values are ‘Together, pupil first…’. We at Castle Wood recognise that the Thrive Approach fosters the professional practise of all practitioners to work together to enable individuals to grow and move their learning on in a transparent and supportive way.

As a school we work collaboratively with parents, families, social services, respite and health care services to ensure a holistic approach to education that enriches individual growth.

Who are the Thrive practitioners?

At Castle Wood School we currently have 2 fully trained Thrive practitioners.

  • Louise Dewis (Deputy Headteacher)
  • Caroline Mason (HLTA).

How is Thrive used by staff across the school?

All staff at Castle Wood School regularly undertake Thrive training as part of the school CPD program to ensure staff are upskilled. Staff understand the developmental level of each pupil within their class and focus on the appropriate stage of Thrive to meet the pupil’s developmental stage which may not be neurotypical.

The Thrive Approach links closely to the principles of the EYFS and Castle Wood Curriculum. It focuses on developing play skills, language and communication, promoting physical development, meeting sensory needs and developing emotional and social skills. Our curriculum focuses heavily on ‘the role of the adult’ and how adults support and extend learning.

Teachers and Teaching Assistants use the Vital Relational Functions (VRF’s) to attune to pupil’s behaviours and dysregulation. This approach enables pupils to feel secure, valued, develops a positive bond and trust. It enables pupils to know that their feelings and emotions are valid and resulting behaviours can be managed more effectively with the support of an adult or the class team.

Termly, each class completes a class Thrive profile based upon the knowledge of the pupils in collaboration with the class team and family and any other relevant professionals. The profile enables the class team to identify the needs and next steps of learning for pupils. The class action plan created for the class will form FOCI for pupils and be worked on daily. The Class teacher will identify one pupil that may have a greater need due to their behaviour or social and emotional need. This pupil will have a Thrive profile generated, and an action plan created. The action plan will be part of the pupil’s FOCI and will be worked on by the class daily.

Over time pupils are supported to become more aware of their emotions, feelings and how to communicate this in a more appropriate way, to reduce behaviour of concern. The Thrive Approach is used as part of Behaviour Plans and Personal Handling Plans. It may include activities that distract, enable regulation, low arousal time or how the adult needs to act and present themselves during times of pupil dysregulation.

How is Thrive used within classroom learning spaces?

Many of our pupils at Castle Wood School are working between stages 1-4 of Thrive. Every class uses the Thrive principles relevant for each child within their class in order to set up a rich learning environment. Learning opportunities are planned beyond the classroom to extend pupil experiences and rehearse different skills to enable pupils to embed learning.

This learning space (left) is based upon the Lilli Nielson ‘Little room’. It enables a pupil with visual, hearing impairment and physical impairment the opportunity to explore a small, multi-sensory space safely, and successfully as the sensory opportunities are close and enclosed. For some pupils it provides the opportunity to be independent, explore and to self-regulate away from the rest of the learning space as it feels enclosed, quiet and secure (Being).

This learning space (right) again is enclosed and focuses on meeting physical and sensory needs, which can be accessed by pupils to meet these needs. It is also can be used under the direction of an adult, to enable pupils to meet their sensory need to prevent dysregulation or as a calming strategy. Proprioception offers a calming effect, and the peanut ball offers deep pressure into muscles to enable this proprioception to further develop. The role of the adult in this stage and environment is crucial to enable pupils to access the correct amount of feedback, offer calming talk and regulate the pupil using VRF’s.



Multi-sensory opportunities (one example is in the image on the left) develop all the pupil’s senses that can be supported by an adult to model language, play, enjoyment and foster positive relationships (Doing).






This activity (right) enables pupils to develop the skills that they have acquired in a playful way, whilst increasing communication, social skills and problem solving. This activity may be severally supported by an adult for some pupils, whilst other pupils may be more independent (Thinking).





This activity (left) is enabling pupils to begin to develop their role play skills, imagination and social skills. Activities like this enable pupils to develop a positive sense of self through rehearsing roles in safe ways (Power and Identity).




Learning Outside The Classroom (LOTC)

When learning is happening outside the classroom, studies show that wellbeing, learning and emotional regulation can increase. Through physical activity and movement the brain develops neural
links and builds stronger pathways, which reinforce our knowledge and skills. Also, when outdoors, Serotonin (our happy hormone) is released which naturally enables our bodies to relax and feel good about ourselves. Sunlight provides Vitamin D which enables strong bone growth and increases immunity. Being active, learning outdoors and having fun is life enhancing and enables all our pupils to Thrive. 


Thrive in Dance

Some of our complex and profound Autistic/SLD pupils find accessing dance within a group a challenge. We have adapted dance sessions which are 1-1 for targeted pupils. The pupils are identified within the class Thrive profile and individual profiles are created which document an action plan for next steps. This is shared with the Dance Specialist who works on these key areas. Dance sessions are led by the pupil for up to 10 minutes where the Dance Specialist will imitate actions, movements and begin to build sequences. Most importantly this develops a positive relationship, non-verbal communication, positive sense of self and wellbeing and enables the pupils to develop at their own pace, in their own space.


For more information on how Thrive can support parents and carers click here