A sense of belonging is critical for wellbeing. This means that we value diversity – everyone has something to offer. One aspect  of inclusion is cooperation. To facilitate this we encourage participants in any project to get to know each other, to break up cliques, help with communication and facilitate new perspectives.

Inclusion is incorporated in two Circle guidelines:
  • There are no put downs – only personal positives (or push-ups!)
  • We listen to each other

The principle of inclusion is also incorporated in the Circle pedagogy where participants are mixed up so they interact with those outside their usual social circle. The expectation is that everyone will work with everyone else. This does several things – it breaks up cliques, it helps people get to know those they would not otherwise communicate with and in doing that it facilitates new perspectives on each other. This happens most actively when pairs are looking for things they have in common. There are no individual activities in Circles, everything happens in interaction with others, either in pairs, small groups or the whole Circle.

Belonging and resilience

Feeling that you belong is one of the most important factors in resilience. Most of us have feelings of belonging to our family but that is not the only place where you can feel you matter – at a sports club, in a youth group, in a faith community, at work or in a school. We know what it feels like to come into a place where we are warmly welcomed and some of us know what it feels like when the opposite happens.

CIRCLE ACTIVITY: Community Collage: Using a variety of materials such as postcards, sticky letters, feathers, paint or felt pens small groups of students construct a collage on art board to represent the vision of their ideal community. The discussion that goes into this is more important that the finished art-work though that it itself can be a focus for further discussion. An example is given in the picture accompanying this blog.

Keeping challenging kids connected

It is the most vulnerable children in our communities who are most likely to be marginalised, suspended and excluded from school. Students are vulnerable because they have experienced negative events in their lives. Some of these are chronic and on-going, others may be acute and temporary. They may include rejection, abuse, loss, trauma, living with adults who are mentally ill or addicted, perhaps in circumstances of poverty or criminality. Some children may not have good role models for healthy relationships and others may be tolerated rather than loved. Such students may not be compliant, courteous or conform. They may be aggressive, distracted and insolent. It can be difficult to like young people who behave in ways that are unacceptable in school. High expectations for behaviour are appropriate but rejecting poor behaviour is different from rejecting the student.

In Circles the aim is to keep all students connected. This means that participation is always their choice but they need to abide by the guidelines if they choose to stay. If they decide to leave they can always return so long as they demonstrate listening and respect. The first thing any adult needs to say is ‘you are important, we want you here, it is not the same without you’. These are not words that many of our young people hear. They are told to get out, they are not wanted and that things are better when they are not there. No wonder they behave in ways that are hard to manage. I guess most of us would kick up one way or another if we were regularly hearing these messages about ourselves.

Circle Solutions are not just for the ‘good’ kids – they are for everyone. Circles provide an opportunity to think about yourself differently and change perspectives of each other

CIRCLE ACTIVITY: The Circle facilitator asks for a volunteer to role model a character. They are given one of following scenarios (or make up another one) and asked to stand or sit in the centre of the Circle and read them out. They are then asked to stay in character. The rest of the Circle work in groups of three on the following questions:

  • How would this person feel?
  • How might you feel if this was you?
  • What would you want to be happening?
  • What 3 things could this group do to help this student feel included?
  • What else might help?

The person acting the character remains in the Circle to answer any questions the groups might ask and then responds to the ideas that the groups come up with.

My name is Banti – I do not always understand what I am asked to do because I only started to learn English a couple of years ago. When I make a mistake other students laugh and I feel stupid. I have decided not to speak in class and sometimes will not answer questions in case I get it wrong. This gets me into trouble with some teachers.

My name is Charlie – I have only been in this class a few weeks. My mum and I used to live in another town but we had to leave to get away from my dad who broke my mum’s arm. I am very angry with everything and also scared for my mum. Most people in this class have known each other a long time. When I try and join in they are not very friendly towards me. This makes me even angrier. Things are going from bad to worse.

My name is Savannah – I have a problem with my foot which means I walk lopsided and run slowly. I really like playing games but no-one wants me in their team. I often spend playtimes on my own.


Roffey. S (2011) Changing Behaviour in School: Promoting Positive Relationships and Wellbeing London and Thousand Oaks Sage Publications

Roffey .S. (2013) Inclusive and exclusive belonging – the impact on individual and community wellbeing Educational and Child Psychology 30 (1) 38-49