A Case Study – Developing Mental Toughness in The Blue Coat School, Oldham
A Lesson in Mental Preparation Strategies
The Blue Coat School in Oldham is a Church of England convertor academy for students aged 11-18. The school is located on a town-centre site, in a ward that is amongst the 5% most deprived in England. Blue Coat is extremely successful and hugely oversubscribed.
Students achieve outstanding results and make excellent progress. The 350-strong sixth form regularly outperforms fee-paying or selective schools and specialist sixth-form colleges. The school received two consecutive ‘outstanding’ judgments from Ofsted, and rated ‘outstanding’ in every category in December 2011. In 2013, Blue Coat became a National Support School and a National Teaching School.
In response to some concerns about the well-being of Y11 pupils and investigating how we could help students maximise their own potential to improve academic performance, the school decided to design and deliver a series of mental toughness lessons. Establishing that the 4C’s Mental Toughness model (developed by AQR and Professor Peter Clough) was the best fit to the school’s context, broad programme aims to help students were:
- a happier and more balanced approach to school work and life in general;
- improve confidence and wellbeing;
- improve performance in exam results and attainment levels;
- adopt positive thinking;
- be more resilient;
- develop clear goals.
The Mental Toughness sessions were six one hour lessons, delivered one per fortnight over a twelve-week period, to all Y11 students. In the programme design we opted for the most common mental preparation strategies: goal setting, imagery, positive self-talk, reframing and relaxation skills. The student results showed significant improvements for emotional control, and confidence in abilities and a clear improvement in overall mental toughness.
One of the biggest unintended consequences of the programme was the impact on the teachers selected for training and delivery of the Mental Toughness lessons. The analysis of their MTQ48 data revealed an upward trend in all aspects of mental toughness and a significant increase in confidence.
The Blue Coat School have now successfully run the Mental Toughness programme for the last three years. We are confident that the programme has helped students to achieve their best academic performance and that there has been a positive impact on GCSE grades.
We have seen a positive impact on the attainment, wellbeing and behaviours of students and staff. The 4 Cs model is very accessible to all stakeholders and is now embedded in the school’s ethos. The next stage is to carry out (within a PhD programme) a formal analysis to better understand which interventions are most effective and how we can apply this to different groups of pupils.Steve Oakes, Assistant Director Sixth Form, Head of Character Development and School Research Lead.
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