The Academic Resilience Approach (ARA) is a whole-school based community development model designed by Angie Hart and Lisa Williams with input from school practitioners and young people. It aims to equip schools with the tools to support students to overcome adversity and improve their mental health, and, in turn, educational outcomes. This intervention was devised based on complex systems theory and a social justice oriented resilience framework. The community organisations YoungMinds and Boingboing have adopted the approach and are working in partnership with schools to apply it across the UK and to research its impact.
A systems perspective acknowledges the complexity of both the school system (including school culture, values, communication and the flow of information) and its context dependency, meaning that the way the system operates can adapt or change over time and in response to the external environment (educational policy and practice priorities, Academies, Ofsted interventions). The structure and practices of the ARA are based on Resilient Therapy and the Resilience Framework developed by Hart and colleagues in 2007. The Framework identifies multiple resilience building mechanisms that are applicable in multiple contexts with children and young people. It incorporates basics, belonging, learning, coping and core-self as the key components of resilience. The ARA follows a structured pattern, although the detail of actual delivery in a participating school is bespoke to the needs of the school. The facilitated steps of the intervention are to:
- conduct an initial senior leadership team meeting looking at school priorities
- introduce the Resilience Framework through whole staff workshops and staff training
- help the whole school community to audit the school against an evidence-based framework in relation to resources and needs of the school, and gain insight from parents, students and staff, who are all part of the change
- make a whole school focused action plan based on intelligence derived from above steps
- support implementation of action plans and review through further training and consultancy.
The whole process of the ARA is completed within one academic year. The ARA aims to improve the resilience knowledge of all school staff along with their confidence and competence in using this knowledge in practice which will then change the school climate.
Overall, the school develops a new environment that will support the basic needs of the students (especially of those who need the most support), belonging to a school community, learning basic life skills, coping with daily stresses, and developing future possible selves as core aspects of resilience building; which in turn will lead to better health and wellbeing outcomes.
This project explores ways to build the capacity of school staff and the commitment of school leaders and other key stakeholders to help them identify and implement specific resilience-based actions. We expect that this will help the whole school community to imagine and create a resilient school system which will support vulnerable students do better than their circumstances might have predicted. Within this project we (academics, practitioners, local senior management team and members of the school community) will investigate the extent to which the implementation of the Academic Resilience Approach builds capacity and community understanding within schools, supports schools to imagine better futures for their vulnerable members, and initiate change in their perspective towards a resilience focus in a local area in the north of England.