Showcasing: Positive Living Skills Wellbeing Initiative

Region
Western NSW 

Lead agency

PLS Learning Solutions Australasia Pty Ltd trading as Positive Living Skills 

Living Well domain

  • Getting in Earlier
Consumer and Carers Action Group

Program Overview

Positive Living Skills (PLS) is a social impact organisation founded by a person with lived experience of anxiety and depression. The PLS Early Childhood and Primary School Wellbeing Programs are educator-led, scripted and curriculum mapped programs focused on supporting the mental wellbeing of children, educators and families. 


The goal is to prevent mental health problems by teaching young people habitual, practical and positive social and emotional skills, starting in early childhood, to stem the flow of bullying, violence, anxiety, depression and suicide. 


The programs apply an intentional teaching approach, providing educators with a common positive language for teaching children the fundamental skills of self-regulation, kindness, appreciation, gratitude, empathy, compassion, peer support, respect, diversity, inclusion, acceptance and confidence. These skills set children up for healthy self-esteem, positive interactions and relationships and resilience to handle life’s challenges.


The PLS program, while initially self-funded, received an Empowering our Communities Government Grant from the Western NSW Primary Health Network in late 2019. This funding has provided PLS access for 10 early learning services in drought affected communities in Western NSW. 
 

Challenge

The PLS initiative aims to address the alarming statistics of anxiety depression and suicide being experienced in Australian communities, particularly those people in rural and remote areas who experience the challenges that come with living in remote communities. 


It has been designed with teachers in mind, to address their growing challenges. It achieves this by supporting teacher wellbeing through teaching resources and professional development experiences and connects with the family environment.

Solution

Catherine Shaw lived in rural NSW for many years and founded PLS based on her lived experience with anxiety and depression. On discovering positive resilience strategies, she identified a gap where intentional social and emotional skills were not universally taught in schools. 


Over six years Catherine and co-founder Jo Devin, in consultation with psychologists, educators and families, have developed and trialled the PLS Programs which are supported by the 40-year body of work of Dr Terry Orlick PhD.1


PLS is a comprehensive long-term program, designed to be delivered every week in a full school or calendar year.


PLS supports the mental wellbeing and the workload of educators. The program is delivered to children and their families via the local early learning centres and primary schools. Because all resources are fully scripted and mapped to curriculums, educators can meet their teaching requirements while feeling confident that they are supporting their communities to build skills for long term mental wellbeing1

Services can receive support from the PLS team and educators can also participate in professional development.

Possa Bill is the leading mascot character for the program, featuring in learning experiences and resources. Possa Bill represents the importance of building and maintaining a growth mindset in life. He shows that with persistence, patience, practice and repetition we can move toward our own unique potential. He is kind, supportive and inclusive and appreciates the simple joys in life and loves to learn. Possa Bill also fuels himself with healthy nutrition and loves being active and healthy. 

Outcomes

The PLS Wellbeing Initiative is being implemented in over 70 educational sites across Australia, and one in Papua New Guinea.
Feedback from the PLS initiative has been extremely positive:

“We began implementing Positive Living Skills at the start of the year and the children have shown very high levels of engagement with the program and enjoy interacting with Possa Bill. Many of the children often talk about Possa Bill throughout the day - even when he is not in use. We have also had one parent report to us that when at home with their child, there was an incident where the parent was annoyed about a situation and their child explained to them the importance of changing channels and that they should change to a happy channel.” 

Charlotte Goadby, Early Childhood Teacher, Bourke and District Children’s Services

PLS research partner Charles Sturt University (CSU) has completed three research evaluations on the program with resounding positive results and the CSU School of Teaching Education have mapped all 216 learning experiences within the Primary School Program to the Australian National Curriculum and Professional Teaching Standards2,3. The program is included in the beyondblue Be You online directory of programs with a strong nationally aligned curriculum and evidence base4.


PLS will gather more evaluation data over time. 

Next Steps

PLS’s vision is to see all Australian preschool and primary school children participate in this program so that children, educators and families can all learn preventive, practical, proactive and positive living skills. This in turn should have a positive impact on the growing and alarming statistics of anxiety, depression and suicide prevalent in Australian communities and around the world.

 

References

Orlick, T (2011) Positive Living Skills: Joy and Focus for everyone. Canada: General Store Publishing House
Fordham., L (2019) Promoting children’s social and emotional well-being: An evaluation of a trial of the Positive Living Skills  Primary School Wellbeing Program. Charles Stuart University, School of Teacher Education
Murray, L and Fordham, L (2020) Promoting children’s social and emotional well-being: An evaluation of the Positive Living Skills Primary School Wellbeing program in a New South Wales regional school. Charles Stuart University, School of Teacher Education
Beyond Blue Be You (2020) Programs Directory, accessed on 15/06/2020, retrieved from: https://beyou.edu.au/resources/programs-directory?query=positive+living+...