Attachment Aware/Trauma Informed Practice in School

I am very fortunate that my office is three doors away from the school counsellor.  I say fortunate because I am able to speak relatively regularly to her, and not only gain incredible insight from her comments but also to recognise and celebrate the unique and positive impact she has upon the school community.  I am proud that she, and our attempt to support children through difficult times, is not hidden away in a cupboard or as an adjunct to the ‘SEN zone’ or similar.  It is on a main thoroughfare of the school, and easily identifiable by all students as a very important place.

In one of our semi-regular conversations, the counsellor spoke to me about a year seven girl she had been supporting.  This student had recently lost a younger sibling, and was now enduring the terminal diagnosis of a step-parent.  As a school, we had mobilised the troops to support her and her older sister, and the school counselling service is a big part of that.

‘I’m so glad I came to Trinity’, the young girl had said.  She continued, ‘I was so worried that I would have to change when I came to high school, but here, everyone just makes sure that you fit’.

When I reflect on how we support children through traumatic episodes, but also help them recover from trauma, this statement has a special resonance.   We can never expect that the ‘mainstream’ school approaches of numbers on the doors and bells on the hour will suffice.  We have to consciously cushion our support around the child, and, for a short time at least, prioritise their recovery over all else.  Of course, the journey towards a Trauma Aware School is a slow one, and the goal of a child centred approach influencing curriculum and pedagogy must not be lost sight of.  The work we are developing alongside the Virtual Headteacher is key here and rightly identified as a local and regional priority.

In the interim though, my focus is on leading a school in which we are proud of the vocal, open and deliberate way that we discuss our support for children.  It is a central platform of our school ethos, cannot be divorced from my personal convictions and, of greatest importance, is the best way to support children and young people in a school setting.

I see the IRCT as being key to this.  It is only through effective research and discussion by committed professionals that we can achieve meaningful and lasting change that will support all children, but particularly the most hurt.

Chris Gabbett.

IRCT Trustee
Principal – TRINITY CATHOLIC SCHOOL, Leamington Spa.