Developing social skills

Developing social skills

A key aspect of our school vision is that students:

  • Are able to clearly communicate their needs, wants and opinions in a communication style that meets individual needs and ensures their voice is heard.
  • Leave Hope Wood most effectively prepared for the next stages of their life.

Promoting functional social and communication skills runs throughout our curriculum and all interactions during the school day and week.


Emotion coaching

All staff are trained in supporting young people to regulate using Emotion coaching techniques.

Emotion Coaching is about helping children to understand the different emotions they experience, why they occur and how to handle them

Emotion Coaching is a set of processes that includes:

  • talking to the child about the emotions
  • helping the child to verbally label the emotions being felt
  • respecting and accepting the child’s emotions
  • discussing the situations that elicited the emotions
  • having goals and strategies for coping with these situations

(Gottman, 1997)

Circle time

Circle time is a time for all pupils to gather together to share and reflect on their feelings and ideas about things that are important to them. Circle time provides an opportunity for peer support and reflection and encourages building tolerance, resilience and mutual respect in a safe and supportive environment.

Quality Circle Time is a democratic and creative approach used to consider a wide range of issues affecting the whole school community and forms a part of Personal, Social, Health Education and Citizenship (PSHEC).

Quality Circle Time is based on the promotion of self-discipline and self-esteem. Students learn and understand the consequences of their behaviour and begin to take on responsibility for themselves and their immediate and wider community. This has been shown to gradually shift responsibility for discipline from the teacher to the children themselves.

Occupational therapies (OT)

Pupils who have OT programmes will be supported in school by class staff to follow their OT programmes using different approaches either in the sensory rooms, OT rooms, Soft play areas or classrooms. OT can be used to support pupils to develop strategies to self-regulate.

Zones of Regulation

Zones of Regulation is an approach used to support the development of self-regulation in pupils. All the different ways pupils feel and the states of alertness they experience are categorised into four coloured zones. Pupils who are well regulated are able to be in the appropriate zone at the appropriate time. Using the zones allows pupils to communicate how they are feeling and what they may need to regulate. Pupils can do this independently or with support.

Team Teach

Team Teach is about creating a positive environment and empowering young people to safeguard themselves.

We need to help young people to regulate their own behaviour and develop self-control.

95% of team teach is de-escalation and teaching pupils to have their own strategies.

Communication Boards

Communication boards enable and promote pupils to discuss incidents that happen in school or at home.

Total Communication

We use a total communication approach at Hope Wood to give students as many opportunities to communicate as possible, with all different people in all different environments. We use visual aids, signed supported English, Intensive Interaction, Tassels, TEACCH, communication boards, PECS and digital communication aids to name a few.

EHCP Targets

Our young people work towards their EHCP goals throughout the day at Hope Wood, which are broken down into development areas: Employment Steps / Independent Living Steps / Relationships, Friendships and Community / Good health steps. These targets are part of their preparation for adulthood and are reviewed every half term.


We are a Gold Rights Respecting School and put children’s rights at the centre of everything we do. There are four key areas of the programme: wellbeing, participation, relationships and self esteem. We teach and learn about rights: for the whole school community through training, curriculum, assemblies, topics, focus days/weeks, displays. We teach and learn through rights: by modelling rights respecting language and attitudes and making strategic decisions that involve students. And we are ambassadors for the rights of others: developing students as rights respecting citizens.

Student Council

Our Student Council meets regularly to improve the school and promote the student voice within the Academy. They take on projects around school and liaise with leadership to improve things for all areas of the Academy. They have worked with the kitchen to look at dinner menus, organised student activities, linked with Durham County Youth Council, met with Investing in Children and worked with a company doing research about respite provision in the County.

UN Sustainability Development Goals

Our Eco students and KS4 groups link up with the other Academies in Ascent Trust once a term to work on the UN Sustainability Development Goals. So far we have worked together on No Poverty, Zero Hunger and Good Health and Wellbeing.

Drop down days and Cultural Capital

At Hope Wood we regularly have days where we focus on a specific area or event to promote cross working around the Academy. We mix groups to encourage a wider social circle and experience for our young people. This year this has involved an RE Day, a Jubilee party and picnic, Sports Day, Student Takeover Day, a Pride march, Science week, Chinese New Year, Pancake Day celebrations, student volunteering week, World Book Day and Careers Week.