Life Skills for Mental Health & Wellbeing
This program comprises 5 key components including a staff and parent support package, the WHATPONU program and the award-winning 1-5 How Are You Feeling Scale – a simple approach to whole-schools communication, providing a common, consistent vocabulary that:
Can improve SAT outcomes for final year students
Provides ready identification of students who are struggling to learn
Allows for consistent approaches for staff supporting these children
Provides a consistent platform to reduce anxiety
Normalises the range of feelings, emotions and bodily sensations in response to experiences in life
Why Light Education?
Light Education Training has been delivering award-winning evidence-based programs since 2014. With 18 years experience working in schools in London and now based in New Zealand, Vanessa empowers people to learn simple neuroscience to understand how their brains and body work. In particular she supports students to navigate negative behaviours associated with shame, which can otherwise disrupt their ability to learn new information.
Hear from one of our participants:
When this young man started the program he didn't like it because he said it didn't suit him because he was a 'noisy kid'. See what happened by the end...
Did you know?
Our IQ is reduced by 50% when we are stressed
Therefore, to maximise children’s learning opportunities, it is absolutely critical to help our teachers and parents know how to provide a supportive learning environment, including supporting students how to recognise the body’s stress response and how to turn it off, so that anyone can get on with learning.
Self-regulation has been proven to play a key role in improved academic outcomes*
Self-regulation is a foundational aspect of learning and knowing how to make yourself feel safe in your own body, to be relaxed and ok with the uncomfortable feelings that come when you don’t understand something is key, especially if we are to unlock our full potential
We are all aware of how important it is to support our school communities not just to be supportive in and with their learning environments, but to be supportive with each other. The call for a cohesive and connected community has never been so prevalent as today, with the collective challenges of the worldwide pandemic.
Building this takes time and consistency from leadership teams. Light Education Training offers a way to truly support children, staff and parents in fun, practical ways, that not only enhance mental health but unlock our learning potential, while developing a stronger community.
What began simply, by wanting to make the learning process explicit and teaching children about neuroscience, how to respond and not react, Light Education Training has developed the 1-5 How are you feeling? Scale™ along with a series of tools to aid re-connection and to support an open-hearted, responsible learning approach for all children, regardless of their age or abilities.
Benefits of the 1-5 How are you feeling? Scale™
Reduces anxiety through teaching life skills, an understanding of the brain and the self. Research showed the programme reduced stress and worry about not understanding, including normalising these feelings and being ok with them.
Increases engagement and unlocks learning potential. Consistently improved SAT scores final year students in all schools that implemented the programme.
What Happens At The Point Of Not Understanding
WHATPONU is an evidence-based teaching programme that teaches children to self-regulate when unhelpful reactions occur, such as what happens they do not understand something new. We help them to practice helpful ways of being ok with NOT knowing.
Who is it for?
Primary school children: Year 1 - Year 6
Secondary school students
Young adults who are disengaged (dedicated programme)
This programme can be delivered as a stand-alone year or for the full five years of primary and secondary school, with an evolving curriculum to embed learning, so that the young person has a solid foundation from which to express themselves.
The primary objectives of these lessons are for children to:
Develop healthy responses to not understanding something
Know that not understanding something is normal, and that it’s ok to ask for help to support them to understand
Realise that their brains need to feel safe in order to learn, including providing a basic understanding of the different functions of the primitive and mammalian brain, as well as the frontal cortex
Learn the ways their brains create pathways and how to support their body to be and ready and open to more learning
Develop some very practical tools that support them to stay engaged in learning
Understand the specific behaviours they adopt in order to not feel stupid/shame; to identify these, and better understand themselves and others around them
Additionally, most adults are not aware of basic neuroscience and benefit enormously from this programme.
Previous clients have been Waltham Forest Council and Investec.
This programme also supports the whole school, through
Encouraging staff to look beneath behaviour
Identifying the unmet need in the child, thereby developing specific understanding of each child
Using worksheets and role plays for how children behave when in shame
A unified ethos and healthy approach to learning
Enabling integrated understanding of unwanted behaviour as a sign of something else going on
Providing tools to assist teachers to endeavour to support children to understand what is behind their behaviour
Meeting children where they are at, so they stay engaged in learning
Providing everyone with the same vocabulary about learning
Programme outcomes have been impressive with one class getting the BEST SAT's results the school had ever had, even though they were previously failing in KS1 SAT's. This was prior to the official pilot with three London schools; every school who has since done this programme has had the highest SATs they have ever had. We can't prove that these results are due to this programme alone as many factors are involved, given this is outcome is consistently seen in a variety of schools across different areas of the UK, WHATPONU is a definite factor in their success.
Amongst children achieving the highest SATs results, some commented how they used the connection to their breath before commencing their exams papers:
"I spent 2mins doing the breathing and then I felt confident in myself that I would complete the paper"
- Y6 Boy, Ambler Primary London
One teacher noted that the finger tip exercise was used by students during the exams – it’s a very simple technique of bringing your fingertips together with a focus that supports you to connect back to your breath, your body, and enables you to re-engage the frontal cortex, ready for learning.
What people say
"This year at SATS there were no tears, no panic, no stress, no issues - that is a first, the only difference was doing this programme."
- Sarah, Y6 Teacher, Thorpe Hall Primary London
1 - 5 Scale How are you feeling?
This program won in the 2018 Time to Talk Awards with Islington Council, London, UK.
This system was developed in collaboration with a Year 5 class and is an adaption of autism scales. Vanessa realized our 4 fingers and thumb could aid us greatly in getting children to communicate how they were feeling, simply and effectively, 1 as they are non-verbal, visual cues.
With lesson plans that develop to explore all the feelings from 1 – 5 on the scale, children learn to notice their body sensations and create a vocabulary to aid this expression.
Because these scales have been developed with classes of children, they are therefore very simple, practical and relatable. They support children to get in touch with and express how they feel, while knowing they will be supported. The key is to help the children to regulate their feelings and not be afraid of sharing them, while being aware they can’t just expect the teacher’s immediate attention to deal with them all of the time. Using these scales creates a clear structure and space for the whole class.
"The kids love it, they ask for the breathing after lunch and no-one has been at a 5 all term. It is like by knowing they will be asked; it helps them be ok and let things go more easily"
- John, Y4 Teacher, Handsworth Primary School, London
Level 1 example
Level 5 example
How the 1-5 Scale helps
The more you support people to connect, be aware of what they are feeling and then to express this, the healthier they will be.
“In one glance I can tell where every child is at emotionally, and we know what to do next – that is a game changer.”
“Then things changed since we started the 1-5 scale in year 3, and actually it’s changed a lot, it’s much easier to be in the class. I was one of the children who got angry, very angry. Then the breathing came and now I’m realising that there are little jumps in our emotions, and now understanding the feelings of not getting angry very quickly. It’s much easier now to be in the classroom now”
- Year 3 child, Ambler Primary School, London
Developing Life Skills tools to reconnect in a playful, practical way is also essential to move towards great mental health and wellbeing. Involving the whole class in making a cube that can be rolled at regular intervals throughout the school day to encourage regulation is playful, practical, and fun!
For example, the children can:
Give themselves a yummy hug
Stroke their own arm gently but firmly for the release of opioids.
Close their eyes slowly feeling the shape of their eyes as they do this, then take a gentle breath.
Counting one then a gentle breath, two, gentle breath, three, gentle breath.
Hold your hands together until you feel the warmth in your palms, it feels nice and warm then place your hand on your heart
Schools trialling this programme currently have noticed that children from all year groups really benefit from being given a time in the day to reconnect to their breath and bodies. Some schools have started “breathing books”, where the children write down how they are feeling.
“Recently a child who was in the detention room was asked what could he do next. He remarked he wanted to write in his breathing book and that would help him calm down.”
"The room becomes like one person doing all the same thing and I feel calm and relaxed in my body"
- Jayden 10 years
"I realised that I too was born to be gentle"
Staff support and supervision
Training can support with different aspects of the package, depending on what feels needed for each school. This can be a half day INSET or done at staff meetings.
Supervision can be provided for teachers as required:
Teachers are the main attachment figure in the classroom, responsible for regulating and supporting thirty developing brains and beings!
That’s a lot, and it doesn’t even refer to or include their challenges or personal struggles that each of us experiences in life. Teachers benefit from supervision; the more they have support to be with the different stressors in their professional (and personal) lives, the more joy can return to their (working) lives.
Talks on how parents can support their children in the home can be provided, using the different tools that we have developed at school. We can make the Connection Cube, 1-5 scale poster and associated worksheets downloadable for them to use at home.
Pain point talks. What are the triggers causing tension in your home? Talks are available on the use of screens, sugar, bedtime, routine, saying no. Short talks to workshop areas in everyone’s family lives that may be difficult, challenging or outright painful to live through.
Parents are invited into classes to learn with their children. Adults also benefit from knowing the brain science behind our learning, so that they can help their children stay open and not shut down. Often parents who have themselves had negative learning experiences and have shut down from learning can unwittingly pass on these unhelpful patterns of shutting down and giving up to the next generation.
Workshops can teach the parents WHATPONU. We can run this as 7 sessions dedicated for parents, or we can even invite parents into their children’s lessons. This approach can be really fun for both kids and parents
“I just wanted to thank you for the training last night. I can honestly say several members of staff including me felt it was the best training we have had on well-being and gave us a lot to think about”
- Helen Castell, Principal, Writtle Infants School