The importance of being a Trauma Sensitive School

One off events or continuous events of trauma can impact on one’s physiological, psychological and developmental trajectories.

Everyone has experienced some level of threat that tends to trigger fear and/or ability to feel safe and calm. Similarly, children may fall victims to adversities that can also shatter their sense of ability to feel safe and impact developmental pathways.

Adverse Childhood Experiences Study and statistics from the Department of Education, evidenced that all schools comprise of students that may have been exposed to direct or indirect traumatic experiences. These can range from abuse, domestic violence, separation, parents struggling with mental health difficulties, substance misuse etc.  

For many children, exposure to such events can trigger a deluge of academic and social & emotional challenges which can impede on a child’s ability to function and learn in school. Trauma has evidenced to impact foundations of learning such as:  memory, information processing, language, attention and engagement. Concurrently, children may display difficulties with emotional regulation, internalising behaviours (withdrawn, overly compliant) or extreme behavioural difficulties (aggression, destructiveness, defiance)

A trauma sensitive school is an institution that places the social and emotional needs of all children especially those exposed to adversities at the forefront of planning. Schools can considerably aide in the recovery process for any child. An intuition that takes a trauma informed approach facilitates training in the area of trauma for all its staff members. By gaining a deeper understanding of trauma, staff members can make the connection around adversities and its link to classroom behaviours, engagement and other core areas. Importantly, the information ascertained not allows for reflection of current practices, but influences decisions around curriculum development, behaviour management and the overall atmosphere within a school.  

Research by the Rees CentreOxford University has substantiated the impact of school’s taking a trauma informed approach. Findings from the team’s evaluation project in Bathe & Somerset, Leicestershire and Stoke & Trent, revealed that trauma aware schools, demonstrated changes in the practices and attitudes of school staff. Importantly staff showed increased confidence in addressing the needs of children and young people improvements in children’s wellbeing, educational progress, attendance and exclusions (Dingwall & Sebba, 2018).