Growing Great Schools™ use the ASPIRE principles – agency, safety, positivity, inclusion, respect and equity – to guide all of our work practices.
Although most pupils are doing OK, we have a mental health crisis impacting on a significant number of children and young people. Schools can either exacerbate the difficulties or ameliorate them. Schools that are doing well for all the children and young people in their care are concerned about more than academic success. They want pupils to enjoy learning, feel they can be successful and know that people care about them.
This evaluation document has been developed from many research findings on wellbeing, mental health and resilience, healthy relationships, belonging and a positive school climate.
Although described separately these principles interact to promote optimal relationships with colleagues and clients.
When people have agency they have choices and take responsibility for making things happen. When we work with schools, classes, teachers, students or parents, we do not impose answers, but help people come to their own decisions about ways forward. We do this by providing information, guidance, ideas, evidence and supporting strategic thinking. We see our work as a co-operative endeavour.
Relationships are central to our work. In a healthy relationship everyone feels emotionally, physically and psychologically safe. Without this people cannot take risks for fear of making mistakes. Safety also implies trust. We will not offer what we cannot deliver, but may find someone who can.
Our work is based in positive psychology and positive education. Our major focus is helping people define their vision and goals and the steps towards these – this is different from dealing primarily with problems. We explore the strengths that people, organisations and families have and build on these. We also bring a light touch into our work with the positive psychology aspects of kindness, gratitude, humour and positive communication.
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.
When people ask how they want to be treated by others, most say they want to be respected. When asked to define what respect means for them, they say being accepted, being listened to, not being judged, having confidences kept. We also believe that it means respecting people’s time and circumstances. Respect does not only apply to individuals, it also applies to contexts and culture.
Equity means that everyone in a project has an equal voice. No-one dominates and the aim is to come to a consensus. We appreciate that in order to ensure equity we may need to have flexibility in our approach.
ASPIRE and Circle Solutions
You can explore these principles in more detail, looking specifically at how they are applied in the Circle Solutions pedagogy, here – follow the links in that page to get articles on each principle.