Positive Education

Happy children do better in school and in life. A positive education helps to develop a flourishing child. In a nutshell, higher wellbeing leads to better learning. The education world now recognises the advantages of positive psychology to help children learn, develop their strengths, build resilience and equip them for life. This in a time when anxiety and depression is soaring amongst young people. One key piece of research in positive psychology shows that learning optimism prevents depression and anxiety in children, roughly halving their incidence over the following two years.

We provide education professionals with training in the key skills of wellbeing such as optimism, strengths, resilience and growth mindsets. Miriam has facilitated the world-renowned Penn Resilience Programme which was developed for schoolchildren and has delivered INSET days. She also works with educational psychologists on the integration of positive psychology into child psychology. Miriam worked with Jeni Hooper to develop the Flourishing Programme, described in her book What Children Need to Flourish.

Miriam has spoken on Positive Education at conferences. We have also had the pleasure of welcoming the winner of the Global Teacher Prize, Andria Zafirakou to the Positive Psychology Masterclass.


Miriam delivered a fantastic session that was both thought provoking and positive. Bringing together elements of growth mindset, positive psychology and strengths profiling enabled staff to self-reflect, learn about each other and take away some fantastic tips for applying growth mindset on a day to day basis. A very positive way to begin the new term and will look forward to seeing how this training benefits us over time. Thank you Miriam!” Nick Evans, Head Teacher, Ridgeway School, Warwick.

Miriam developed the Happiness Zones, a positive psychology programme suitable for young people aged 15+, which was highlighted by the Academy of Social Sciences as an example of best practice in mental well-being. It is a programme of eight sessions covering key themes in wellbeing.

  • Feel Good Zone (Positive Emotions & Savouring)
  • Future Zone (Optimism & Gratitude)
  • Me Zone (Strengths)
  • Chill Zone (Relaxation, Meditation)
  • Change Zone (Motivation, Goal-setting)
  • Me to You Zone (Relationships)
  • Body Zone (Nutrition, Physical Activity)
  • Bounce Back Zone (Resilience, Growth Mindset)

Applying Positive Psychology to Alcohol-Misusing Adolescents The Happiness Zones was the first ever positive psychology intervention in the UK aimed at substance-misusing adolescents. The pilot study of it demonstrated that positive psychology can be applied successfully to the most disaffected of young people, who are not only ‘at risk’ but living the reality of educational, social and health problems. The Happiness Zones was commissioned by Project 28 an alcohol & drug treatment service for young people in Bath and funded by the Alcohol Education Research Council (AERC). The programme set a precedent in using a health model approach to ‘at risk’ adolescents with coaching as a tool rather than therapy. The young participants, mostly NEETs (not in education, employment or training), attended weekly sessions and were followed up 6 and 12 weeks after completion of the programme.

“I’ve changed a lot for the better… I feel like a completely different person to be honest.” 

The results showed a significant decrease in alcohol dependence along with significant increases across 4 dimensions of well-being – hedonic, eudaimonic, physical and social well-being. Many of the participants described the programme as ‘life-changing’. The transformation was both internal and external shown in improving circumstances. 

Key Findings

  • Alcohol dependence fell by two-thirds.
  • Drug use declined becoming a part-time rather than full-time activity. Several participants gave up altogether.
  • Statistically significant increases in happiness, optimism and positive emotions.
  • The development of a future goal orientation. Participants set and achieved goals, becoming optimistic about their futures.
  • The ratio of positive to negative emotions increased with evidence of the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions at work. Many of the participants went into a state of flourishing.
  • 80% re-engaged with education. 40% gained new jobs. 40% were re-housed into more suitable accommodation.
  • Coaching with positive psychology works well with vulnerable adolescents. The coaching question of ‘what do you want’ orients young people towards their future and motivates them to take steps towards achieving their goals.

“I think the future’s good for me whereas before I thought oh no, nothing’s going to turn out alright but I changed.”

You can read the academic study based on this pioneering research, published in the Journal of Groupwork. The research features in the official Making-the-Case-for-Mental-Wellbeing AcadSocialSciencespublication as one of a dozen inspiring projects alongside the Penn Resilience Programme and nef’s 5 Ways to Wellbeing.  Read the article in the American Psychological Association’s Addictions newsletter.

We offer training in positive psychology for education. This is suitable for teachers, educational psychologists, young people services and those involved in pastoral education. Some of the organisations we’ve worked with previously include How To Thrive now known as Bounce Forward, Cardiff Against Bullying, Barnardo’s Cymru, MIND and In-Volve.

“Thanks for a really useful, thought-provoking session – we all went away with a toolkit of different positive psychology strategies to help both us and our students! Looking forward to trying them out and working with you again in the near future.” Asad Butt, Teacher, Leyton Sixth Form College

“I would highly recommend Miriam to any organisation that is looking to inject some well-being into their culture. We had Miriam deliver an INSET session with our staff and it was very well received. What is great about Miriam is not just her knowledge and expertise, but also her enthusiasm and authenticity which suggests that she lives by the same principles that she is extolling to the group. Her presentation is both engaging and interactive; even the most ardent cynics will come away with something of value.” Ben Sandford-Smith, Head of Sixth Form, Solihull School

‘We would thoroughly recommend the Positive Psychology training delivered by Miriam, the two days are packed full of information and all staff who attended the course were able to apply the principles to their work and personal life.  We have managed to make improvements to the way we work, benefitting our service users.  Both days were full of energy and Miriam’s training style makes the learning environment fun, safe and encouraging.  We look forward to working with you again in the future’ Rachel Beddoe, Project Manager, Cardiff Against Bullying, Cardiff Council