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:
- 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.