Skip to main content

Our Approach

#311 Implementing the Thrive approach – The Free School Norwich

Darren Webster, Principal, The Free School Norwich

What did we do?

School staff underwent training in the Thrive approach and Senior Leadership Team Thrive training funded by the Norwich Opportunity Area (NOA) and then implemented the Thrive approach at The Free School Norwich to benefit the emotional and social needs of its pupils.

It developed my knowledge of trauma, brain development, child development and strategies to meet the needs of those missing key elements of their development. It has made me more confident when speaking with and supporting parents with their children’s emotional and social issues.

It has provided me with strategies for helping children with their emotional and social development. It has encouraged me to develop my knowledge further of elements affecting children’s social and emotional development, polyvagal theory and trauma.

Feedback about the impact of Thrive training from the lead staff member.

Summary of impact

The Thrive approach promotes children and young people’s positive mental health by helping adults know how to be and what to do in response to their differing and sometimes distressed behaviour.

The training enabled the Thrive approach to be implemented across the school in the following ways:

– The children all have a class set of objectives that are specifically built into Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) lessons and teachers are encouraged to highlight opportunities for meeting objectives in other lessons in their daily planning. This is monitored by our school senior leadership team.

– A small group of children in school receive 1:1 or small group Thrive sessions. They have an individual Thrive profile that is separate to their class profile. The two Thrive practitioners have been given an afternoon each to work with the children. This allows us to meet the needs of a greater number of children.

– Before starting small group or individual Thrive sessions, one of the practitioners meets with parents to do an initial assessment and a home profile is produced. This is reviewed every 3 months.

– During the Coronavirus outbreak, all parents were emailed their child’s class objectives with a list of activities that they could do with them to meet their social and emotional needs. Parents were pointed towards the Thrive Facebook page set up during this time and were given Thrive information on a weekly basis through the school Facebook page. This included wellbeing information, strategies for helping their emotional development and encouraging ways of maintaining children’s social wellbeing using (safe) social media.

Staff are developing the language associated with Thrive and are more readily recognising children who have gaps in their development.

Steps taken

Two staff members from the school initially attended Thrive training and became Thrive Practitioners for the school. The training was then cascaded to all staff to enable the Thrive approach to be implemented across the whole of the school. There is a plan to engage in more training once the school returns to greater normality following the Covid-19 pandemic.

What would we do differently

The Thrive training combined with additional senior leadership team training within the school has enabled all school staff to increase their understanding, skills, and confidence with regards to supporting children with their emotional and social needs. It has also created wider opportunities for connecting with parents and working in a joined-up manner.


The training was funded by the NOA. Staff time was required to implement learning from the training and set up new ways of working.

See how others have implemented this Big Idea

Norwich Inclusion Charter - Boudica Schools Trust

I have been involved in the Norwich Opportunity Area Inclusion Charter project from the start, firstly as a Norwich head teacher, then as a CEO of a small Trust and now Director of Education at a larger Trust with primary and secondary schools in Norwich.

Setting Up a Young Carers Network - Mile Cross Primary School

Over the last couple of years we have established a Young Carers network at Mile Cross Primary School. Our Young Carers Group, ‘Creative Carers’ meets regularly for planned activity sessions.

Embedding Thrive - Nelson Infant School and Wensum Junior School

Anna Catlin, Assistant Headteacher at Nelson Infant School and Wensum Junior School, talks about how they have embedded the Thrive approach and created a Thrive Hub.


Darren Webster, Principal

The Free School Norwich, Kings House, Surrey Street

Norwich, Norfolk