Search for ideas, guides and inspiration

In this fourth blog in the series, Ruth Lue-Quee shares her advice for creating the right environment to support our pupils to move from surviving to thriving.

This blog is part of a 6-part series. To find where you left off head on over to our wellbeing blog page.

Our classroom needs to be a nurturing, safe base for our pupils with a focus on understanding that all behaviour is a form of communication. Children should be provided with opportunities to communicate in a range of ways and express their emotions both verbally and non-verbally.

A mentally healthy classroom will be representative of all children. They need to feel included and a valued part of the class. It will also have opportunities for mindfulness practice and ensure all children are aware of the routines and what is happening.

Every class should have a visual timeline on display and refer to it at the beginning of each day to establish a calm start to the day. If children know what is ahead of them, they will feel secure. The classroom environment will be calmer for all learners, thus creating an effective environment to learn.

A sensory space can also be a really powerful tool in creating an effective environment for a mentally healthy classroom. It allows a safe place for children to retreat to if the classroom environment gets too much, but doesn’t require additional adults to take them out of the room. It keeps the child included in the classroom environment. Having a sensory space helps children to address their sensory needs, become more focussed and comfortable again and thus be feeling in a better place mentally to be ready to learn.

A few of my favourite resources that I would use to create an effective environment are:

  • Pop up sensory den – These come in 2 sizes so there will be one to fit in your space. They provide an instant sensory den which you can pop up anywhere!
  • Giant TTS beanbag – perfect for creating a soft, adaptable seating or lying area – anywhere! Remember some children may need to lie down rather than sit up, but this doesn’t mean they’re not focussed and listening to the learning.
  • Liquid floor tiles – The liquid oozes and moves as the child steps, rolls or touches it. Really great for visual or tactile sensory seekers.
  • Sensory kits – Resources that offer a variety of light up, touchable, noise making resources to appeal to different children’s needs within your environment.

For a step by step guide to setting up a sensory space, read this TTS blog about creating a calming space.

All the resources mentioned in this article need to be accessible for all. It’s no good having these things high up or tucked away where the child can’t find or reach them in the moment they need them. They need to be out, accessible and the children need to know how they can access them safely without causing disruption to the rest of the class.

What else do we need for a mentally healthy environment?

An effective environment cannot just be created by having some fabulous resources. You could have all the best items in the world, but if the adults and pupils in the school aren’t working towards creating an effective environment they won’t have the impact required. Mental health needs to be on the agenda and curriculum across the whole school. It needs to be spoken about, valued and prioritised at all levels for the impact to really be felt on the environment. Displays and assemblies within the classroom and at a whole school level should highlight the importance of mental health. School leaders should regularly conduct surverys / using measurement tools to assess the feeling within the school environment to ensure a mentally healthy environment is being established.

Jump to Part 5.

With many thanks to Ruth Lue-Quee for writing this article for us.

Ruth is the founder of My Mummy Teacher, an educational brand that whole-heartedly believes in the power of play. My Mummy Teacher empowers parents and professionals to help their children learn through play, through their best-selling Learning Through Play Cards and a range of additional products and services, that are uniquely adaptable for a wide range of abilities. Ruth is a highly qualified, former Deputy Headteacher of a primary school and has also worked in many aspects of Special Educational Needs including mainstream and additional resourced provision settings. She has considerable experience as a Senior Leader and is passionate about teaching, learning and inclusion within KS1 and EYFS. As well as running My Mummy Teacher, she proudly works in partnership with Cadmus Inclusive as an Inclusion Consultant and regularly writes as an expert for businesses, companies and in the press on Educational and Parenting matters.

← Return to Blog Home