Circle of Friends Intervention
A Circle of Friends is an inclusive approach to supporting children with additional needs to be fully included in school activities. A group was run at Yoxford and Peasenhall Primary School from February to June 2023 to provide social support to a girl with complex health and learning needs. 7 children, including focus child were in the group. The group was run by the SENDCo with class TA supporting to ensure actions were implemented throughout the week. The intervention was planned carefully with the focus child’s parents and the child herself.
Needs identified at start of intervention were to help focus child make more friends so that she was joining in with her peers at break and lunch, and to develop greater understanding of her needs and empathy in the class.
The initial whole class meeting was very successful with the whole class volunteering to be in the circle. The class meeting included music chosen by the focus child and information about her specific needs. A mixture of ages and genders were then chosen to be in the circle, with a focus on children likely to transfer to Alde Valley high school and those who would benefit from some additional emotional support. All parents were informed by letter that their child was participating in the group.
Weekly circle sessions were structured with check-ins, and an initial focus on the things the target child asked for help with. The circle then moved onto specific teaching of grounding, mindfulness and breathing techniques, problem solving and talking about successes and worries. The children were very open and shared personal issues and supported each other to develop solutions.
The impact was noticeable after the initial session and grew throughout the intervention period. The children came up with solutions to involve the focus pupil in refereeing sports activities and devised a rota so that they always knew what activity she was doing each break and lunch and who was with her. This was supported across the week by the TA who was also part of the circle. Empathy for each other increased and the children grew in confidence to share problems and contribute to discussions.
Pupil evaluation at the end of the intervention showed that they all valued the sessions and they liked getting to know the target pupil better. They enjoyed the mindfulness activities and sharing problems. One pupil said it was awkward sometimes. They ended the final session with a huge group hug and discussion of how to stay in touch once some of them move to high school.
If any other schools want support in running a Circle of Friends, please contact Kathy Brooke for details.