Latest figures from research, recently published by Queen’s University Belfast, and focused on effectiveness of nurture groups, found that about 60% of all children experience some form of loss, neglect, abuse or separation. Many of these children will not relate to the world in typical ways and they spend their day trying to ‘survive’, rather than thrive in our present day education system. Their behaviours can be mystifying to those around them, and traditional disciplinary approaches which rely on rewards and sanctions (and form the basis of many a behaviour policy) simply do not work as they might with other children. They need something different.
In order to learn, children need to be able to engage the higher parts of their brain (accessing their logical, rational and emotional parts), but those who have experienced early neglect and/or repetitive trauma spend much time living in the primitive ‘survival’ part of their brain – of course this has played a key role in keeping them safe through tough times, but as a result they can become over-reliant on it. While outwardly they may appear the same as many of their peers, the intensity, duration and frequency of particular behaviours can signal difficulties; behaviours can also often be superficial, masking what’s really going on for them. Relationships are critical to improving learning outcomes for these children, and above all to help them feel safe. If a child does not feel safe, they will not be able to (cannot) learn.
Adoption UK has just launched a campaign (in association with the National Association of Headteachers) to encourage all schools to become attachment-aware, and suggest that schools might use some of their Pupil Premium (Plus) funding for staff to receive appropriate training. Of course, organisations other than schools also support children’s learning and social/emotional development and should consider staff training and development in this area.
Mandy Parry Training is pleased to be able to offer a half-day basic awareness course in attachment and trauma for education professionals working with vulnerable children. This will cover trauma, attachment, impact of early trauma and attachment on the brain, and recognising different attachment styles; it also aims to equip professionals with some simple, effective practical strategies to employ to better support children who have had adverse early experiences. Find out more.
In the meantime, if you would like to begin your journey to understanding more about dealing with the impact of attachment and trauma in the classroom we recommend the book ‘Inside I’m Hurting: Practical Strategies for supporting children with attachment difficulties in school’ by Louise Bomber (2007).