GTC Scotland

The General Teaching Council for Scotland

On their best bear-haviour

How can teddy bears help improve pupil attainment and wellbeing?

When teachers from four schools in West Lothian were asked by noted research scientist Dr Suzanne Zeedyk to grow their inner teddy bear, an idea was sparked. After receiving their Pupil Equity Fund (PEF) money, the schools devised a Teddy Bear Policy which has helped create a culture of positivity and openness among staff and pupils.

Each class, from P1 to P7, has a teddy bear; the teddies are named by the pupils, dressed up and treated as another member of the class. They have become a way for pupils to self-regulate, express themselves and ultimately find comfort.

Older pupils have become ‘Bear Buddies’ in the playground, wearing caps at break and lunch times so younger pupils know where to turn if they need someone to talk to. ‘Bear Benches’ have also been installed. These function like friendship benches where, if pupils see someone sitting there, they can go over and talk to them.

Bear hugs

The bears have also been used in Emotion Works lessons. Pupils write their problems on a bit of paper and put them into a box beside the bear (anonymously if they wish). These are then read out and the class offers solutions. “Not only does this allow pupils to let their feelings out by projecting them onto the bear, it also brings the class together so that they can help and support each other,” explains Our Lady of Lourdes Headteacher, Eileen Brennan.

Collective efficacy was a big part of the success of the project with teachers encouraged to make the policy their own. A 15-minute school-wide group activity during Friday morning meetings allowed teachers to sit and talk about their week; successes, struggles and best practice. By working together, the Teddy Bear Policy became embedded in the culture.

All four schools have seen a decline in disruptive behaviour, as well as more open, kind and caring pupils. As the behaviour of pupils has improved, teachers have been able to spend time with some of their quieter students; children who are going through something but which isn’t manifesting as disruptive behaviour. One school record was broken as their P7 class achieved their highest attainment levels to date.