Using creativity to support positive behaviour in KS2

Underpinned by the principles of playfulness, acceptance, curiosity and empathy (PACE), the River Programme was developed to re-engage Key Stage 2 pupils in learning.

Dividing line maroon 390 x 5


Using the well-regarded pyschological concept of PACE, the River Programme is a therapeutic approach providing time-limited, part-time, AP outreach support for primary schools.

The core offer is a tailored, six-week, group programme, plus pre-assessment and follow-up and the option to add on staff CPD as well as an intensive 1:1 programme for pupils with greater need. It is particularly suited to children with emotional wellbeing difficulties and those who struggle with relating positively with their peers.

The programme is rooted within the first two pillars of our outreach continuum:

Continuum of outreach River Programme 16
Dividing line maroon 390 x 5

The challenge

Four boys in years 5 and 6 who were at risk of suspension, were referred onto the programme by their primary school. The school highlighted the following challenges:

  • persistent disruptive behaviour, including a level of conflict;
  • stalled progress in learning;
  • withdrawal from class due to effects on their peers.

Our one-to-one pre-assessments with each pupil also found:

  • high levels of emotional difficulties
  • a perceived mis-match between how the boys felt they were seen by their peers, which contrasted with the views of school staff.
Dividing line maroon 390 x 5

The solution

The AP outreach sessions relied upon creative strategies involving music, art, games and story-telling to positively engage pupils in exploring:

  • acceptance
  • boundaries
  • making mistakes
  • empathy
  • self-confidence
  • appearance and relationships
  • positive attitudes towards learning.
Example layout three image

Pupils were encouraged to use the creative strategies practiced within the sessions during the week ahead. Weekly feedback was shared with the SENCO, highlighting each pupil's progress and the strategies to be supported within school during the coming week.

After the six-week programme, a personalised summary was shared with each of the boys, the SENCO and class teacher, which highlighted individual challenges and recommended on-going support.

Dividing line maroon 390 x 5

The impacts


  • 100% attendance throughout the six-week AP outreach programme.
  • School attendance during this period was good and has continued.


  • Staff report that the boys’ engagement in their learning has improved.


  • Staff report that the boys’ interactions with peers has greatly improved.
  • Two boys reported a significantly more positive mindset towards school.

Sarah Merritt

Headteacher, King’s Hedges Educational Federation

The children talk fondly about the sessions. Staff have noticed that the children have started to become more aware of their emotions and the impact these can have. One child will often say ‘I can turn it around'.

River Programme pupil

I was worried about outreach, but I have found it fun. It has been hard, because I have had to do a lot of thinking. The staff have helped me to think about my actions and how it is better to think before I react to people.

For more information about this AP outreach programme, or any aspect of Olive Academies' AP outreach offer, please contact us:

T: 01708 982624

Our commitment

In line with the DfE’s SEND and AP Improvement Plan, Olive Academies is committed to working with local mainstream schools to help them better support pupils before exclusion is considered.

Find out more about our approach