Curious not furious? Why the Thrive approach was the best choice for our alternative provision

Introducing the Thrive Approach….

As an onsite school Alternative Provision, many of our young people come to us and they have high SEMH needs that the school want some help in supporting them with. We wanted to ensure that we could support young people in the best possible way. U-educate directors Chris and Adam carried out their research and found the Thrive Approach is a rigorous, targeted, measurable and inclusive model. It aligned with our mission and ethos of supporting young people to get the best possible outcomes for them.

What is Thrive?

The Thrive Approach training is made up of a 12-week online course. This is where the magic happens and you are transformed into a Thrive practitioner. You are taught the five key elements of Thrive, and how to apply them:

1. Thrive Activities

Within our Alternative Provisions, Thrive is timetabled and the activities are used in a group and 1-1 basis. They are usually creative activities that you use as a vehicle to get to know the young person and support their development.

2. Relational Skills

My relational skills have improved vastly since completing the Thrive training course. Building trusted relationships with our young people is at the core of everything we do. I am armed with strategies to use. An example of this is the use of the strategy, “a co-regulator”. For a young person with substantial gaps in their emotional development, using this can help to teach them how to regulate themselves. The opposite of this would be they are sent to an isolation room, to think about what they have done on their own. This rarely works for the kind of children I work with.

3Thrive Online

This is a online tool that assesses a young persons development and behaviour, and gives us strategies and activities to use to support their development. This has proved to be invaluable to us as termly reviews/revisions of action plans, groups and individual, show us the impact our work has had.

4Thrive Theory and neuroscience

We liked that the Thrive Approach is underpinned by child development and attachment theory and neuroscience. As practitioners we can understand a young person’s behaviour on a deeper level. Many of the activities that we carry out in our thrive sessions, means that we can explain to the young people exactly what is happening to their brains and bodies when they are dysregulated. It gives them clarity and understanding. I also use this information when I’m training colleagues.

Be Curious not furious…..

The very nature of what we do as an on-site Alternative Provision means that we are working with some very vulnerable young people. Thrive has taught me to reflect and view behaviours through a different lens. One saying that I took from my training was to, “be curious not furious”, (not that I was ever furious) but it taught me to be a detective around a young person’s behaviours and shine that light on them. It taught me to assume that every behaviour is a communication, and to delve deeper to find out what is really going on for that young person.

If you are a school, an alternative learning provision or in any kind of educational facility working with young people, I couldn’t recommend training in the Thrive Approach enough.

The irony is that child development theories and neuroscience research has been available to us for years. As a Thrive practitioner, I go back to basics and identify gaps in earlier developmental phases. For young people that have significant developmental needs, this is exactly what we should be doing. As people who work with young people, we owe this to them, so they are given the best possible chance in life. Every child really does matter! Let’s make sure that we show them this.


Rachel O’Connor is an Alternative Provision Practitioner with U-Educate.

A complete guide to Alternative Provision

As recently reported by SchoolsWeek, some of the best academy trusts in the nation are looking to open their own Alternative Provision (AP) schemes. U-educate are one of the best internal provision suppliers in the West Midlands, so here’s some guidance on running a programme.

What is an Alternative Provision?

Simply put, the aim of an AP is to improve the behaviour of students that are struggling within a classroom environment.

The provision staff should present a variety of skills for students with SEN (special educational needs) and SEMH (social, emotional and mental health) requirements. These skills include pastoral care, providing lessons and extra-curricular abilities: sports coaching, cooking, etc.

As statistics show, Alternative Provisions are rapidly growing as each academic year passes by. According to a study conducted by National Statistics (via, the number of pupils attending AP’s increased by 10% from 2020/21 to 2021/22.

Some of the highlights from our Alternative Provision at Gospel Oak School.

U-educate’s ‘school within a school’ model

U-educate are currently providing an internal provision to multiple different schools in the west midlands, including Gospel Oak (shown above).

Our programme caters for Key Stages 3 and 4, and differs dependent on the school and students that we are providing for. The incentive is to support students, parents and the school itself.

We aim to provide targeted therapy to our students through the Thrive approach. Thrive equips our practitioners with the correct training to develop relationships with the children, improving trust and creating a better classroom environment.

Chelsea McCunnie, one of our Practitioners, is also a Thrive adolescent practitioner. Here’s how she feels Thrive has impacted her:

“I believe Thrive has equipped me with the tools to nurture and emotionally support my students.

Using it as an approach has made such a difference to how I can be there to guide our young people”

Find Chelsea McCunnie on LinkedIn to learn more about the Thrive approach

To Conclude

Alternative provision programmes are a highly effective and innovative approach to education that provides a positive and supportive learning environment for young people who may have struggled in traditional school settings. By tailoring education to the individual needs of each student, this programme enables them to thrive and achieve their full potential.

If you are interested in learning more about U-educate’s Alternative Provision programme, we encourage you to download our BROCHURE, which provides detailed information about our approach and the benefits it can offer to young people and your school.