Developing resilience in primary school children

BRF’s Barnabas in Schools is helping develop create mentally robust primary school pupils.

Resilience in the educational spotlight

Primary school pupil thinking

Resilience – it’s a strong concept that has seen many through ‘thick and thin’, but what does it mean in our current national and global situations? And what does it mean for our younger people, especially those aged 11 and under? That’s an important question for BRF’s Barnabas in Schools  – our professional educational service for RE in primary schools.

Find out more about Barnabas in Schools

Over recent years, primary and secondary church schools, within their remit for the development of character and Christian values, have been called upon to put special focus on resilience. Earlier this year, Ofsted (the public-sector schools inspections office) also announced that from September 2019, their inspectors will start to evaluate how ‘schools support pupils to develop their character – including their resilience… and help them know how to keep physically and mentally healthy’.

What is resilience?

So what do character and resilience look like? In a recent speech, Damian Hinds, the UK Education Secretary, suggested ‘they are the qualities, the inner resources, that we call on to get us through the frustrations and setbacks that are part and parcel of life’.

Naturally, schools will set about working out exactly how they can help nurture those qualities and inner resources in pupils. Church schools will have to go even further, providing a distinctively Christian perspective.

As Ofsted and SIAMS (the Statutory Inspection of Anglican and Methodist Schools) indicate, the benefits of resilience go well beyond simply developing a stated ‘school value’: they underpin many other aspects of life and support positive mental health. With recent statistics from various sources indicating a worrying increase in mental health issues among young people, this is now a pressing issue in many schools. (Hence the creation in 2015 of an annual Children’s Mental Health Week to support those caring for or working with children facing difficulties.)

Primary school pupil
‘They are the qualities, the inner resources, that we call on to get us through the frustrations and setbacks that are part and parcel of life’
Damian Hinds, MP, Secretary of State for Education

The Barnabas in Schools approach

Respect Resilience and Responsibility

So, how might Barnabas in Schools make a positive contribution to the bigger national picture? Following talks with the National Society in 2016 about their plans to promote character development, we initiated three new ‘Creating Character’ interactive Barnabas RE Days and a linked INSET training session to support pupils and staff in this area.

Respect, Resilience and Responsibility

One of these RE days focuses on Respect, Resilience and Responsibility. Beginning with the story of Jesus being tempted in the desert, we explore what it can feel like to be under pressure and challenged, considering what we might learn from Jesus’ demonstration of resilience and discussing how it might shape our own responses to challenges. Through an engaging mix of interactive storytelling, drama, discussion and reflection on further Bible stories, pupils acquire new information while considering and sharing their own opinions and responses – and the response has been extremely positive.

Teachers and students dancing

‘I have a football trial coming up. I told my mum to cancel it because I’m scared, but now I’m sure I’m ready for it.’

Pupil feedback

‘The children’s responses to the discussion time showed that they were applying the story to the big ideas of showing respect, responsibility and resilience.’

Teacher feedback

Supporting teachers

Teaching staff have the opportunity to go further, exploring their own school values, and considering how these might be further integrated into the foundations of general school life through the Barnabas in Schools linked INSET training session. (They’ll also gain a wealth of ideas to use within RE, collective worship or assemblies and other subject areas.)

To further develop this vital area they can discover a wide variety of free online material at

Does your local school need support with developing resilience in pupils?

Primary school pupils laughing

Many schools are challenged by the demands of these new requirements. Could you let your local school, governors or church know more about how Barnabas in Schools can help?

Ever-shrinking school budgets can make it difficult for schools to fund the support they need, and RE is often one of those areas most impacted.

Could you or your church gift a Barnabas RE day or INSET session to your local primary school? Contact barnabas [at] to find out if we cover your area.

Could you alert your local school to our free online material supporting RE and collective worship or assemblies?

Explore the free resources

Find out more about Barnabas in Schools

Contact Barnabas in Schools