Circle Time: A Resource Book for Primary and Secondary Schools


Teresa Bliss & Jo Tetley

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    With thanks to our colleagues in Gloucestershire County Council, Elton Project 1990–1993.

    In Memory

    Circle Time is used widely in schools because teachers and young people love it. Nobody told us to do it — the word spread and amongst those who carried the word was a remarkable bookseller called Madeleine Lindley. She promoted Circle Time with enthusiasm — teachers responded by finding a place in the curriculum for Circle Time. Thank you.


    We started using Circle Time in Primary Schools in 1990 as part of the social education programme because we knew that properly used it can lead to the enhancing of pupils' self-esteem and improved relationships and behaviour within the classroom. We had positive feedback from pupils and staff who saw it as an enjoyable and worthwhile experience with many unexpected bonuses. Our first book was written because at that time there were very few texts suitable for Circle Time and with the exception of Murray White's work no one in this country was specifically writing on Circle Time for teachers. Mosley's first book (1996) followed shortly after the publication of our first edition with Bromfield and Curry's Personal and Social Education for Primary Schools Through Circle Time being published in the following year. Taylor (2003) has reviewed current research and practice in Circle Time. She inevitably calls for more research however, the findings she quotes in her case-studies frequently reflects our experience in our work.

    In his foreword to that first edition of Circle Time written in 1993, George Robinson wrote that:

    Whilst Circle Time has an obvious part to play in the curriculum as an opportunity to develop speaking and listening, it should be seen as fulfilling an essential role in the Spiritual and Moral development of young people.

    He then talked about the way Circle Time could be used to support the implementation of aspects of the Spiritual and Moral Curriculum most notably the following elements:

    • self-knowledge
    • relationships
    • feelings and emotions.

    Goleman (1995) emphasised the key role of emotional intelligence in our lives. His work has led to the expansion of the thinking evident in the earlier documents from the government. More recently the DFES 2004 document Every Child Matters: Change for Children in Schools sets guidelines on how schools can improve the outcomes for children and young people with its emphasis on the fact that pupil performance and emotional wellbeing go hand in hand. In the document Every Child Matters the five national outcomes for children and young people are described as:

    • being healthy
    • staying safe
    • enjoying and achieving
    • making a positive contribution
    • economic wellbeing.

    The values and attitudes which Circle Time was aimed at enhancing are now seen as central to creating a ‘healthy school’. To become a ‘healthy school’ schools need to provide evidence that the standards are being met in these key areas. The National Children's Bureau's belief about best practice in Personal, Social and Health Education (1993) states that:

    Children and young people need support in developing emotionally and socially so that they are able to use their thoughts and feelings to guide their behaviour positively and develop personal awareness, emotional resilience and social skills… A healthy school is one that works to develop a whole school ethos, environment and curriculum that enables pupils to recognise personal qualities, build on achievements, do their best and manage their health and wellbeing.

    The continuing influence of Goleman's (op cit) work is evident in the next element of the government's primary strategies published in June 2005, Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning. Circle Time is used as a vehicle to promote many of the activities to develop core elements:

    • self-awareness
    • empathy
    • managing feelings
    • self-motivation
    • social skills.

    We know that Circle Time can play a vital part in achieving these aims especially when used throughout the school on a regular basis as part of the weekly timetable. Certainly we know it helps children think about their own behaviour and responses to situations.

    Public acknowledgement and peer encouragement in the circle can be powerful motivators for change… (teachers) derive satisfaction from children's enjoyment and gain new insights into their pupils… Moreover, a common involvement of teachers in Circle Time may make for greater staff interaction at all levels in sharing teaching and learning experiences and support.

  • References

    Ballard, J. (1982) Circle Book: A Leader Hand Book for Conducting Circle Time. A Curriculum of Effect. New York, NY: Rivington.
    Bliss, T., Robinson, G. and Maines, B. (1995) Developing Circle Time. Bristol. Lucky Duck Publishing.
    Booth-Church, E., (2003). Best-Ever Circle Time Activities: Back To School. New York. Scholastic.
    Burns, D. (1982). Self Concept Development and Education. Sydney. Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
    Button, K., Winter, M., (2004) Pushing Back the Furniture. Bristol. Lucky Duck Publishing.
    Bromfield, C., Curry, M. (1994) Personal and Social Education for Primary Schools Through Circle Time. NASEN.
    Canfield, J. and Wells, H. (1976). 100 Ways to Enhance Self Concept in the Classroom. New Jersey. Prentice-Hall.
    C.A.S.E. (1999). Six Years of Circle Time. Bristol. Lucky Duck Publishing.
    Burt, S., Six More Years of Circle Time. Bristol. Lucky Duck Publishing.
    Cooperation in the Classroom - a project pack for teachers. Global Cooperation for a Better World. 98, Tennyson Road, London NW6 7SB.
    Cremin, H. (2002). Circle Time: why it doesn't always work. Primary Practice, 30, 23–8
    DFES/1089/2005 G. Excellence and Enjoyment: Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning.
    DFES/1379/2004. Every Child Matters: Change for Children In Schools Games, Games, Games. Produced by The Woodcraft Folk.
    Goleman, D. (1995) Emotional Intelligence. Why it Can Matter More than I.Q. London, Bloomsbury.
    Lawrence, D. (1973). Improved Reading through Counselling Work. London, Ward Lock.
    Lawrence, D. (1988). Enhancing Self-esteem in the Classroom. London, Paul Chapman Publishing.
    Masheder, M. (1986). Let's Cooperate. Peace Education.
    Masheder, M. (1989). Let's Play Together. London, Green Print, The Merlin Press Ltd.
    Maines, B. (2003). Reading Faces and Learning about Human Emotions. Bristol, Lucky Duck Publishing.
    Maines, B. and Robinson, G. (1992). Michael's Being Bullied, The No Blame Approach. Bristol, Lucky Duck Publishing.
    Mosley, J. (1996) Quality Circle Time. Wisbech, LDA.
    Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (2002). Personal, Social and Health Education and Citizenship at Key stages 1 and 2: Initial Guidance for Schools. London, QCA
    Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (2002). Citizenship: a Scheme of work for Key stages 1 and 2. London, QCA.
    Purkey, W. (1970). Self Concept and School Achievement. New Jersey, Prentice-Hall.
    Robinson, G. and Maines, B., (1988). A Bag of Tricks, the video and handbookBristol, Lucky Duck Publishing.
    Robinson, G. and Maines, B., (1999). Circle Time Resources. Bristol, Lucky Duck Publishing.
    Smith, C., (2003) Introducing Circle Time to Secondary Students: A Seven Lesson programme for 11 to 12 Year Olds. Bristol, Lucky Duck Publishing Ltd.
    Smith, C., (2003) Concluding Circle Time with Secondary Students: A Seven Lesson programme for 13 to 14 Year Olds. Bristol, Lucky Duck Publishing.
    Smith, C., (2003) More Circle Time for Secondary Students: A Seven Lesson programme for 12 to 13 Year Olds. Bristol, Lucky Duck Publishing.
    Taylor, M. (2003) Going Round in Circles. Slough. NFER.
    Ways and means; an approach to problem solving. The Handbook of Kingston Friends Workshop Group.
    Weatherhead, Y., (2004) Enriching Circle Time. Bristol, Lucky Duck Publishing.
    White, M. (1999) Magic Circles. Bristol, Lucky Duck Publishing.
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