About Thriving Futures

WHO comprehensive framework for health promotion in schools

Thriving Futures is aimed at whole school intervention, sitting in the 'Mental Health Education' part of the World Health Organisation model for schools. 

The intention is to introduce students (and teachers) to a overview of what mental health is, how good mental health is developed, what can go wrong and how we can do simple things to begin to put that right. 

It is about providing  knowledge and the language of mental health, so that: 

1. Pupils are able to maintain good mental health in an ever increasing stressful world of exams, social media, peer pressure, negative news, body expectations ...

2. Students that do need more specialised help, be it through school based intervention or through specialised services such as CAMHS or CBT programmes, are able to access it more easily

A more detailed explanation of the research behind Thriving Futures, as published in the Education and Health Journal, can be found here:

Thriving Futures: A whole school curriculum response to addressing the social and emotional welfare needs of secondary school pupils.


The rise of mental health issues amongst children and young people is of growing national concern, one which the government is looking to address through the use of School Based Interventions (SBI). Their Green Paper (Department of Health/Education, 2017) and more recent press release (Department Education, 2018) has proposed the universal teaching of positive mental health skills. Previous attempts at introducing social and emotional education, through Targeting Mental Health in Schools (TaMHS) and UK Resilience Programme (UKRP), reveal a number of issues that need addressing in order the for teaching of such skills to be effective: time, cost, teacher knowledge and understanding, fidelity to programme and longevity of impact.

Thriving Futures is a flexible whole school curriculum response, written by an experienced teacher, that addresses these fundamental issues. The core unit provides knowledge and understanding of why poor mental health can develop by using the cognitive behaviour technique of showing the how thoughts can impact feelings and behaviour, before demonstrating skills to help change this negative cycle. Further ‘satellite’ units refer to these core skills thus reinforcing the message through units that schools can choose according to their need. Resources have been created to fit into the British school system, to be easily accessible regardless of academic ability and to have the flexibility required to meet the individual needs of schools and requirements of OFSTED.

The lessons

As a teacher I understand that lessons rarely run exactly as planned and that teachers tend to adapt lessons according to their own teaching style as well as the needs of the students in front of them.  I have therefore tried to make Thriving Futures as flexible as possible, by basing lessons round a series of images, with options for teaching, and by having a core unit surrounded by satellite units. 

The Core Unit does need to be taught first as this contains key ideas that are repeated throughout the other units.  It is RECOMMENDED that the 'Preparing to Teach Mental Health Unit' is taught as an introduction to the core unit.  This is a stand alone lesson, that introduces the topic of mental health and sets up the classroom rules for examining what could be very sensitive issues. When taught together with the Core Unit, it creates six 1 hour lessons which should create a half term unit of work. (Please note that I have kep the preparation lessons separate so that it is easier to recap the class rules when teaching further units.)

The order in which you look at the satellite units depends very much on the needs of your school. It should be noted that the 'staying in control' unit is not only for pupils with behavioural issues, it also there to help quieter pupils understand that they too have a voice and why it is important that they don't bottle up their thoughts and feelings. 

About the Author

I have worked as a teacher for over 15 years, teaching English to a wide range of ability, across a number of challenging schools. However, with the nature of education, putting increased pressure on both teachers and students, it was with great regret that I decided it was no longer the profession for me.

In 2015, I moved from mainstream education to work in an alternative education project that provided a bespoke curriculim for pupils that found it difficult to access the mainstream. The common linking theme with all the students was poor mental health. Whilst working with these students, I felt disheartened teaching a curriculum that was often irrelevent to the struggles these young adults were facing.  Whilst I found I could connect well with the students, having experienced difficulties in childhood that resulted in depression & anxiety, I felt frustrated at the lack of resources available to help explain their emerging mental health issues. In learning to manage my own mental health, I had learnt a number of skills, that I passed on to students where appropriate, but felt something more concrete was needed.

It was my experiences with these young people that led me to deciding on a  change in career.  I am currently in my final year of training to become a mental health nurse, with the ambition of working in Child and Adolescent Mental Health. I believe my experiences through childhood and teaching have giving me skills that could be of benefit to young people experiencing poor mental health; I am hungry to learn more to enhance that and make a real difference.

It should be stressed that the materials produced here are the result of my teaching experience rather than indepth medical or nursing knowledge. The content within these materials largely exists on the internet, but not, in my experience, in a format that is easily accessible to teachers already spinning many plates. It is my intention to introduce the language of mental health to students, and present an overview of what can cause poor mental health, so that other more specialised services are easier accessed. In doing this I have followed government guildelines as set out in the PSHE Guidance for teaching Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing. (See link below for more details) My goal is to use my years of teaching experience to create high quality resources in a format that will encourage understanding and discussion to aid in the reduction of stigma.

It is estimated that 1 in 10 adolescents suffer from a diagnosable mental health condition, a number which is rapidly growing. Hopefully Thriving Futures will be a start in addressing this. I hope you find the materials I have written useful, easily accessible, and that you enjoy teaching them. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.