Trauma-Sensitive Schools

Key Ideas and Issues for Trauma Sensitive Schools

Recent Research Indicates:

  • Schools with more suspensions have worse educational attainment across the board
  • Suspension triples the likelihood of criminal justice involvement within the year
  • One suspension doubles the chance a child will have to repeat a year AND
  • Alternative schools or PRUs become a dumping ground for ‘bad’ kids.

A Trauma Informed Perspective:

  • The fight, flight or freeze response as a result of toxic stress caused by an unsafe home or an abusive parent mean allostatic load becomes damaging in the long term
  • Short term a child will struggle to self-regulate and it will be physiologically impossible to learn
  • Punishment doesn’t work – we are simply compounding trauma
  • Traumatised children are hyper-vigilant to threat and often over react and live with a sense of persistent threat and fear
  • Changing the response means that the underlying causes need to be addressed – We need to review how we partner with Universal Services commissioners and providers to respond to these children and families’ needs
  • Teaching children what constitutes healthy and unhealthy relationships is crucial, as is understanding how physical and mental health affect one another
  • The school culture has to be based on embracing the fact that toxic stress prevents learning and a supportive educational approach changes behaviour – punishment does not. Children need safe, stable, nurturing relationships and teachers are often the only adult in a child’s life that can offer that
  • The teaching staff have to be engaged and ready to embrace change – if they have come to rely on punishment, are resistant to considering alternatives and they are feeling burnt out – success will depend on addressing these needs and concerns first. Trauma-sensitive means caring for everyone and if teachers are unhappy and don’t feel cared for, they will have little emotional resource to give to their students
  • The initial priority for any school or educational setting is establishing psychological safety for everyone in the school including, staff – When every child can rely on safe, stable, nurturing relationships – then we can move into resilience trumps ACEs phase
  • Trauma sensitive schools can buffer the impact of the ACEs children experience at home or outside of school
  • A whole school effort required – this is a cultural, philosophical and practice change journey
  • Helping all children, including those who are experiencing adversity, to understand their own emotional needs and wellbeing, to build self-esteem and learn to self-regulate are all skills that need to be learned and are also better predictors of adult-life satisfaction than test results and intellectual attainment.
  • Whilst we’re not advocating routine enquiry in schools, the framework we developed for REACh still applies across a number of contexts.
  • The TEACh™️ 5 step methodology is rooted in implementation science and is our guiding conceptual framework:

TEACh™️ Methodology

  • Stage one is a co-produced audit and evaluation of organisational readiness to engage in culture and practice change. This helps to identify any potential systemic barriers and supports organisational buy-in.
  • Stage two involves consideration of change management processes and a review or design of organisation specific systems and processes required to support effective and safe transition to trauma sensitive policy and practice.
  • Stage three, is the delivery of bespoke training, which is tailored to the organisations specific needs, in terms of content and delivery methods.
  • During stage four, the WLA team offer time-limited follow-up support to the organisation, including consultation and coaching for staff and leadership teams, to ensure effective implementation.
  • Finally, in stage five, the WLA team support the organisation to evaluate the implementation of the trauma-informed action plan, to assess the extent and value of observed practice change and the benefits to school staff, students and their families.

Strategy & Policy Development

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Delivering complex and challenging content in a warm and engaging manner

Trauma Sensitive Schools

Key Ideas and Issues for Trauma Sensitive Schools

(REACh) Programme

REACh aims to raise awareness about long term outcomes of childhood adversity and trauma