We are thrilled to announce that we have been shortlisted for the prestigious Independent Schools Association (ISA) Award for Excellence and Innovation in Mental Health and Wellbeing. This recognition is a result of the exceptional work undertaken by Mrs. Liz Hacker, Deputy Head (Pastoral) at Rookwood School.
The award submission focused on a technique called Emotional Assertiveness that is designed to empower pupils to recognise, understand, and manage their authentic emotions, ultimately fostering healthier relationships and improved emotional resilience. This innovative approach, introduced to the school community by John Parr, a renowned psychotherapist, and developed by him throughout his professional career, has gained widespread acclaim for its effectiveness in promoting mental health and wellbeing.
Mr. Parr initially introduced Emotional Assertiveness during a staff inset training session at Rookwood School, following the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Witnessing the transformative impact of this approach on both children and adults, Mr. Parr saw an opportunity to adapt it for the education system. This led to the development of the “Feelings Wheel,” a tool that simplifies the identification and understanding of true emotions, guiding individuals toward their default state of “happiness.”
Emotional Assertiveness recognizes that humans function optimally when they are in a state of happiness, and it provides the tools necessary to identify and navigate emotions such as sadness, anger, and fear. The programme emphasizes that these emotions are not negative but integral parts of the human experience. By recognizing them and utilising appropriate tools, individuals can effectively regulate their emotions and return to a state of happiness.
The method is used in many different countries across the world and has been commissioned by the Australian Government to support pupils following the horrific wildfires in 2019/20. Rookwood School is the first UK school to adopt this approach.
Following Mr. Parr’s introduction of the concept to staff, he conducted a whole-school workshop to introduce pupils to the “Feelings Wheel” and the principles of Emotional Assertiveness. The pupils enthusiastically embraced the concept, laying the foundation for further integration.
Mrs. Liz Hacker, Deputy Head (Pastoral), undertook an intensive training course with Mr. Parr to become a certified trainer in Emotional Assertiveness. Building on this training, Mrs. Hacker has developed a comprehensive Scheme of Work (SOW) that will be implemented this academic year in the school’s Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE) programme for Year 3, Year 6, and Year 9 pupils.
Commenting on the Scheme of Work, Liz said: “This curriculum will provide pupils with a deeper understanding of Emotional Assertiveness, starting with the identification of emotions in Year 3, progressing to recognising emotions and learning how to manage them in Year 6, and exploring the functions of the developing brain and its impact on emotions and risk in Year 9.”
The implementation of Emotional Assertiveness at Rookwood School has allowed pupils to become more empathetic and aware of their peers’ emotional states, further strengthening the supportive and nurturing school environment.
Looking ahead, Rookwood School has ambitious plans to extend the teaching of Emotional Assertiveness to partner schools within the Inspired Learning Group.
The ISA Award for Excellence and Innovation in Mental Health and Wellbeing shortlisting is a testament to Rookwood School’s dedication to promoting mental health and emotional assertiveness within education. The winner of the award will be announced in November.