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Case Studies in Education

All Saints Catholic Centre for Learning
The All Saints Catholic Centre for Learning is a larger than average, mixed secondary school in Northern England, accommodating 1300 learners aged 11-18. The number of students at this school who were economically disadvantaged was above the national average – behaviour and ability levels were both lower than would be expected for their respective ages.

It had been accepted that it is no longer feasible to ignore emotions in the classroom, as they can act as a barrier for learning. The ‘Deep Support’ Pilot Programme was an initiative introduced to the Knowsley area, based on the principles of greater support for learners. All Saints was successful securing the Deep Support Pilot Programme as they were already demonstrating care, mentoring, support and guidance.

Through the introduction of the MTQ48 in the Deep Support Pilot Programme, All Saints were able to take their work on emotional literacy and mentoring to another level. The MTQ48 provided staff with a quick and reliable assessment and evaluation tool, which was used to identify learners most in need of support, and measure the impact of that intervention.

180 Year 7 learners, form tutors and the deputy principal, with responsibility for Key Stage 3 and Learning Mentors, completed the questionnaire. The aim was to identify learners who had not received prior mentoring, with low self-confidence (Scores of 3-4).

Of the 180 learners assessed, 36 were identified as meeting the criteria for needing support. Children can learn to be more mentally tough if the significant adults around them model resilient behaviours, therefore adults, students, parents and carers were asked to complete the MTQ48 – 29 in total.

All Saints, with support from AQR International who developed the MTQ48 measure, then developed a two-tiered programme organised to enable personal growth and active experience. This included one-to-one sessions on a fortnightly basis where session content was based upon the 4C’s Model:

Although the programme was not able to provide evidence to show the impact of the pilot on examination results, programme leaders were able to say that, throughout the duration, behaviour of the more challenging student’s improved. The group was re-tested on MTQ48 at the end of the programme. Of the 27 of 29 students who attended, 70.5% of the group had improved in confidence.

Of the Year 7 learners assessed 47% scored 3 or 4 for confidence when they completed the MTQ48 following the transition from primary school. For these learners results from the MTQ48 were linked to day events, where form tutors set targets for the next term.

They were also encouraged to participate in the ‘All Saint’s Pledge’ which asked students to identify and commit to achieving  ‘15 Things to do before you are 15’. The pledge allowed form tutors to explore a range of activities, which could all be linked to the 4C’s model. These included:

  • Attend an after school activity on a regular basis
  • Take part in a psychically challenging event
  • Represent the school in a sporting activity or event
  • Read a book each term from the pledge list
  • Visit a (Liverpool) landmark or museum


East Berkshire College
In the 2104/15 academic year East Berkshire College, in collaboration with OCR (Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examination Board) organised a pilot to examine whether assessing and developing the mental toughness of students would have a beneficial impact for students and the college.

EBC already had a pastoral care programme in place. One goal was to assess students at an early point in their college career and then later to see if the programme was making a difference to mindset.  An additional goal was to assess though qualitative means the  extent to which tutors, staff and students thought that the  assessment was useful and whether development activity made a difference.

Ultimately this was a pilot within a greater objective – to raise aspirations, improve attainment  – particularly amongst those about which there was little confidence, enhancing employability and increasing confidence.

There were three components to the pilot.

  1. Awareness Training for College Staff.
  2. Assessment of Students using the MTQ48 measure
  3. Mental Toughness Awareness and Development workshops for students

The Results

Essentially in three forms:

Response from students The vast majority of comments were positive. Sample comments include:

1) The activities were great and the information that was shared was really helpful.


2) It was useful and it made me see how to help when I am stressed.

3) Be more positive. Things I will take away from the session is pay more attention to detail and give more value to the things that need the value. Encourage myself every day.

4) I learnt lots of stress related techniques to help me calm down, which I found very helpful. I’ve learnt that there is nothing really to be nervous about and a nervous feeling is a good feeling not necessarily bad.

Assessment of Mental Toughness Scores Before and after the Pilot

The analysis of mean scores showed a positive shift in scores on most scales (sub scales in italics)

There was a positive shift on all scales except for Life Control. Life Control is where the sense of “can do” sits. It’s a significant component of self-efficacy.

The most significant positive shift was with the Challenge scale. This scale is often strongly related to openness to learning and preparedness to deal with change, the new and the challenging.

The shift in Confidence sores was also significant – particularly with Interpersonal Confidence which was now in now in better balance with Confidence in Abilities.

Staff and College assessment of the Pilot and impact

“It is easy to apply and fits extremely well with everything else we are doing and does appear to contribute to the development of our students. EBC has already put in place plans to carry on and extend this work in the future – including training a key member of staff to take a lead on this inside the college.” Virginia Barrett, Deputy Principal, Curriculum & Quality East Berkshire College


“I was so impressed with the programme that I undertook the training and am now a Mental Toughness practitioner myself. I can see extensive use for the programme within college, not only with learners but also in developing and supporting staff. Who wouldn’t want to have Mental Toughness?” Linda Ball – Head of Teaching and Learning, Construction and Engineering East Berkshire College


Blue Coat School, Oldham
The Blue Coat School in Oldham is a Church of England converter academy for students aged 11-18. The school is located on a town-centre site, in a ward that is amongst the 5% most deprived in England. Blue Coat is extremely successful and hugely oversubscribed.

Students achieve outstanding results and make excellent progress. The 350-strong sixth form regularly outperforms fee-paying or selective schools and specialist sixth-form colleges. The school received two consecutive ‘outstanding’ judgements from Ofsted, and rated ‘outstanding’ in every category in December 2011. In 2013, Blue Coat became a National Support School and a National Teaching School.

In response to some concerns about the well-being of Y11 pupils and investigating how we could help students maximise their own potential to improve academic performance, the school decided to design and deliver a series of mental toughness lessons. Establishing that the 4C’s Mental Toughness model (developed by AQR and Professor Peter Clough) was the best fit to the school’s context, broad programme aims to help students were:

  • a happier and more balanced approach to school work and life in general;
  • improve confidence and wellbeing;
  • improve performance in exam results and attainment levels;
  • adopt positive thinking;
  • be more resilient;
  • develop clear goals.

The Mental Toughness sessions were six one hour lessons, delivered one per fortnight over a twelve-week period, to all Y11 students. In the programme design we opted for the most common mental preparation strategies: goal setting, imagery, positive self-talk, reframing and relaxation skills. The student results showed significant improvements for emotional control, and confidence in abilities and a clear improvement in overall mental toughness.

One of the biggest unintended consequences of the programme was the impact on the teachers selected for training and delivery of the Mental Toughness lessons. The analysis of their MTQ48 data revealed an upward trend in all aspects of mental toughness and a significant increase in confidence.

The Blue Coat School have now successfully run the Mental Toughness programme for the last three years. We are confident that the programme has helped students to achieve their best academic performance and that there has been a positive impact on GCSE grades.

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