Wordsworth Primary School, Southampton

Our Hamish & Milo Story

Wordsworth Primary School located in Southampton, Hampshire and has over 650 children in its care. The school is vibrant, diverse and works hard to meet the needs of its community.

Wordsworth Primary School is led by Headteacher Julie-Anne Palfrey and is part of the Hamwic Education Trust. There is a real focus on wellbeing with Trauma Informed Practice being central to its values and belief systems, with the leadership and staff committed to understanding and supporting a wide range of needs the children have.

In Autumn term 2022, Wordsworth Primary became part of the Hamish & Milo Project in collaboration with University of Bath and began to embed the programme as a central part of its intervention for SEMH.

Hamish & Milo is now a key intervention

Sue Mackness, Trauma Informed Schools, ELSA and Behaviour Practitioner, is the Hamish & Milo Lead. She is supported by Deputy Headteacher Sarah Barwell, in ensuring children are referred through a central system, their needs identified and through a careful process, organised into specific Hamish & Milo emotion themes either within a group of children or as 1:1 intervention.

There is a focus on Hamish & Milo being the main intervention part of a graduated response that is reviewed and carefully monitored to ensure the best outcomes for children.

Sue carefully co-ordinates the approach and supports the teachers to identify and recognise children who would benefit, whilst supporting her team to deliver the programmes. Sue started to implement Hamish & Milo with two other TAs who ran different emotion themes. Sue began with the ‘Calm me’ two ‘Resilient me’ groups. One of the TAs Michelle, started with ‘Actions, words and me’ and another TA, Bee, used ‘Finding me’ for a child in a 1:1 setting.

Wordsworth Primary School Hamish & Milo Customer Logo

‘We will build a school where everyone unites.

We will build a community empowered to make a difference for generations to come.

Together we will build a future beyond our imagination.’

“What I like is that I can put children together that the teachers wouldn’t necessarily and it works within the small group experience because they can talk about things in different ways to being in the classroom. I had a group of children where one of them often just runs around school, another one is a selective mute and they have really accepted each other and look after each other in the group and they come every week!”

“The children have learnt to trust me, so they even come and find me between sessions just to check in and for reassurance.”

Sue Mackness

Hamish & Milo is improving school attendance

Within the community there are high levels of adversity and social and emotional need. One of the main priorities for the school is to support children to attend and relieve high levels of Emotional School Based Avoidance (ESBA). One of the significant points Sue made in thinking about the impact of the programme so far is that,

“We’ve noticed children will turn up on Hamish & Milo days.”

“…a child who is a school refuser, never misses a day when she is doing Hamish & Milo! There was a huge worry for her if there was a different teacher in the room or if her teacher was away. Having been able to voice this to the group, the other children in the group now support her, and she has been able to go into class without being so anxious.”

Our Amazing Brain Hamish & Milo handout

Sue described how the breadth and range of activities, content and in particular the emotional language, is a huge part of the resource that helps the children to talk about their feelings. Sue highlighted the richness of the language in supporting the children to make sense of their feelings and she described a child beginning to understand how her brain worked.

“The girl has named the amygdala in her brain, the stress response system, ‘Arthur.’ Now when she is triggered, anxious or dysregulated, she gently taps her head on the desk and ‘leaves Arthur there!’ It helps her to calm down by noticing and naming it and she is now sharing this strategy with her friend!”

Wellbeing profiles support signposting and EHCP reviews

It is early days yet, but the language of the wellbeing profiles has also been a key part of discussion within EHCP reviews and has supported staff and agencies to signpost children on where needed. Usually, the teachers complete the wellbeing profiles as they often know the children best and this is then followed up by observations by Sue and discussions with the SENCO and Mental Health Lead to decide the best group intervention for each child.

Currently there are five Hamish & Milo groups running and being led by three different staff members. The current emotion themes being run are: Calm me, Resilient me, Actions, words and me, Amazing me and Finding me. Previous groups have also included Celebrating me and My friends and me, so it is evident that the whole resource is being used across the school and plans are to increase this access for more children to benefit from the intervention.

Finding me - Wellbeing Profiles

Child highlights

  • A child who has found friendships difficult and whose behaviour can be challenging has been involved in a ‘Calm me’ group. This has enabled the child to make friends, who now can talk about having friends and is much happier in school.

  • One of the children has been able to share how they feel understood in the group and that they no longer feel alone. She has been able to find her voice, to feel heard and to feel a sense of belonging.

  • A girl who finds the classroom a difficult place to be and struggles with resilience, often giving up before she starts an activity has been involved in a ‘Resilient me’ group. She is now able to talk about her experience. She has said how she doesn’t think her brain works and that she always thought she was going to fail. By having talked about this in the group, she is now having a go at things and will try with her English.

  • A Year 2 boy in a ‘Resilient me’ group said he had wanted to leave the sessions at the beginning, but now he actually stays till the end. He doesn’t yet manage any time at all in the classroom, but he actually stays in the group room for an hour. He is attending and coming each week and is going to go onto do an ‘Amazing me’ group next.

  • The sock puppets are amazing, the children love them! One child with sensory needs will get his puppet when he is not coping and he will get the sock puppet to eat my toes as his signal to me, that he needs help. It really works for him.

  • A parent of a child who struggles to attend school on a regular basis, has recently been into school on a Hamish & Milo day, to say her child was crying at home because they were too poorly to come to school, but they wanted to come to school to be part of the group and didn’t want to miss out.

Wordsworth Primary School Hamish & Milo Tree

Capturing the child’s voice is a significant part of the intervention and hearing the impact for children, what they have taken from it and how it may have supported them, provides valuable insight and information to continue to support them.

“The biggest impact of Hamish & Milo is on the children’s social and emotional skills. You see them interacting and you see them succeeding.”

“I love thinking and being curious about how I am managing to engage the children for an hour in Hamish & Milo sessions but yet some of them aren’t managing or engaging at all in the classroom. I love challenging that and looking at what is happening for each child to get the best outcome.” continues Sue.

Due to the success and impact of the programme, further TAs are being trained and will be running Hamish & Milo groups to ensure more children have access to the wellbeing programme. “We want this to be all across the school so that TAs are leading the intervention to ensure the transference of skills into the classroom.”

“This is going to grow. We feel Hamish & Milo is the approach for ELSA and for all our intervention across the school. The aim is that all our TAs will be trained to do Hamish & Milo and then they will have half a day each week so that it is a weekly intervention across the whole school, just like Maths and English intervention.”

“Hamish & Milo has been a remarkable new resource for Wordsworth, which has changed the school provision in meeting the SEMH needs within the school. After running several interventions, I believe grouping children together with similar needs has been more beneficial and given more impact than doing interventions 1:1. This is because bringing children together in a safe environment to be able to express themselves with others has given them a sense of belonging, a joint understanding and a feeling that they are not alone in their thoughts and feelings. Moving forward, we are training more staff and increasing the number of groups we are running so that we can target even more children’s needs.”

Sue Mackness, Trauma Informed Schools, ELSA and Behaviour Practitioner

  • Saltersgate Infant School Doncaster Hamish & Milo

    Saltersgate is an infant school in South Yorkshire that strives to place wellbeing at the centre for its 350 children. “We have never really found anything before Hamish & Milo that is bespoke enough and where we can see this level of impact. We now have developed the role of our support staff to be able to deliver this across the school and to do more of this work.”

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  • Kingsleigh Primary School Bournemouth Hamish & Milo Story

    Kingsleigh Primary is a large four form entry school in Dorset. Hamish & Milo is being used for small group work, some 1-1 intervention and as part of the emotional curriculum for the children and is now being developed for further small group work and targeted intervention led by the ELSAs.