Trauma can have a lasting impact on a person's life, both emotionally and academically. Trauma-informed schools are starting to become more common in order to better support the mental health of students. In trauma-informed schools, staff acknowledge that childhood trauma can have a lasting impact on students' lives. There are many benefits to adopting a trauma-informed approach in schools, including increased academic achievement and improved mental health for students. In this blog post, we will discuss the benefits of trauma-informed schools and how they can help improve student outcomes.

The UK government have recently published a working definition of trauma-informed practice which will be relevant s all settings and have implications for how schools and settings work with children and young people to mitigate against the impact of trauma on their life outcomes

What is trauma?

Trauma can result from an event, series of events or set in circumstances that are harmful to someone's wellbeing. The experience may cause lasting adverse effects on their mental health and ability to function physically, socially, emotionally and academically.

Traumatic experiences often leave individuals feeling helpless in their situation which results in them having limited abilities for functioning at an optimal level over time.

This is why some schools are becoming 'trauma informed,' or having staff who are educated on how to support students with past traumas they may have experienced. When done correctly, this makes students feel more comfortable coming to school and results in better wellbeing and academic outcomes, which can vary from student to student.

What is trauma informed practice?

Trauma can affect individuals, groups and communities. To provide care that is trauma-informed in schools or settings means to understand how traumatic events shape children or young people's neurological development as well as other aspects such as psychological health or social behaviour patterns for example; it also involves being able to understand what types of interventions may be most helpful at different points throughout the recovery process.

Trauma informed practice in schools is about more than just understanding or recognising trauma in individuals. It aims to increase teachers, staff and practitioners' awareness of how trauma can negatively impact individual children and the whole school community. This included children and young people's ability to feel safe, and develop trusting relationships with others - all while empowering everyone in the process!

Being trauma informed: benefits for schools

There are many benefits to trauma-informed schools, both for students and staff. Some of the most notable benefits include:

Improved attendance:  When students feel safe and supported at school, they are more likely to attend regularly. This is especially important for students who have experienced trauma, as trauma can often lead to school avoidance.

Improved academic achievement: When students feel supported at school, they are more likely to engage in their learning and achieve better academic results.

Improved classroom behaviours:  When students feel safe, they are more likely to behave positively in the classroom. This includes things like paying attention, following rules and cooperating with others.

Improved mental health: When students feel supported at school, they are more likely to have better mental health overall. This includes things like reduced anxiety, depression and stress.

Improved access to  early support: Trauma-informed schools can help improve student mental health by providing a supportive environment where students feel safe to openly discuss their experiences, seek support and get the help they need to prevent the onset of mental health problems earlier.

Greater teacher satisfaction and retention: When staff and teachers feel supported in their work, they are more likely to stay in their jobs and feel satisfied with their work.

Improved staff wellbeing: A trauma-informed approach can help reduce the symptoms of trauma and improve mental health outcomes for staff.

Improved school climate: A trauma-informed approach can help create a more positive school climate, where everyone feels safe, supported and respected, this is an essential aspect of a whole school approach to wellbeing.

How to develop trauma informed schools

To help schools get clear on what they need to do to become trauma informed, below are four suggested components necessary for a trauma informed school:

A safe and supportive environment

This means creating an environment where students feel safe physically, psychologically, emotionally and socially. This includes things like having a clear code of conduct, maintaining open communication channels and providing support services for students who need it.

Working on a culture and ethos for wellbeing is integral to creating a safe and supportive environment, this is an integral component of our whole school's approach to wellbeing.

A trauma informed curriculum

This means incorporating trauma informed practices into the curriculum to help students understand and cope with trauma. This can be done through things like teaching about positive relationships, conflict resolution and strategies for emotional wellbeing. Our wellbeing resource toolkit provides a whole toolkit of wellbeing strategies which can be used in a trauma informed curriculum.

A trauma informed culture

This means creating a school culture where everyone is aware of trauma and its effects, and where everyone is committed to supporting students who have experienced trauma. This includes things like training staff in trauma informed practices, raising awareness among students and parents about trauma and its effects, and being open about the support available for students and staff.

Empowerment and choice

A trauma-informed approach should empower students to make choices about their learning and participation in school activities. This includes things like allowing students to opt-out of activities that may trigger trauma, providing alternative activities for students who don’t feel ready to participate and making accommodations for students with different needs.

Programmes that are led by pupils are more likely to be trauma-informed as they are designed with pupil voice in mind. Our wellbeing ambassadors programme is co-produced with pupils, meaning that it is trauma-informed by design and supports young people to led peer led wellbeing support in the school.

How to get started as a trauma informed school

A trauma-informed school is a safe and supportive environment for everyone involved. If you think your school could benefit from becoming trauma-informed, here are some tips to help you get started.

Think the whole school

It is easy to think that trauma is an issue that impacts individual children who have experienced adversity, but trauma-informed practice benefits the whole school community, from students to teachers to support staff. To create a trauma-informed school, it’s important to involve everyone in the process.

Start with your school values

Think about what your school stands for and what kind of environment you want to create. What values do you want to promote? What do you want your school to be known for?

Provide training in how to be trauma-informed

Staff and teachers will need to be trained in trauma-informed practices. There are many different trauma-informed pieces of training available, so it’s important to find one that’s right for your school. Our Wellbeing Club programme for school mental health leads and school leaders helps develop a whole school approach to wellbeing and shares practical train the trainer resources and tools that are essential for not only being trauma-informed but for developing the wellbeing of all children.

Create a trauma informed policy

Developing a trauma-informed policy is a good way to ensure that everyone in the school is aware of trauma and its effects and that everyone is committed to supporting students who have experienced trauma.

Implement trauma informed practices

Once you’ve developed a trauma-informed policy, it’s time to start implementing trauma-informed practices in the school. This might include things like incorporating strategies for wellbeing into your wider school curricululm, running pupil-led wellbeing interventions or programmes of coaching.

Use a coaching approach

The underpinning principles of a coaching relationship align and support trauma-informed practice. When coaching is used to develop a trauma-informed school culture empowers and involves everyone in the process of becoming trauma-informed, from students and parents to teachers and support staff. This will help build buy-in and ensure that everyone is on board with the changes. Using key coaching skills such as active listening, asking coaching questions build trust, communication and relationships essential for being trauma informed

Share strategies for wellbeing

Provide training for all staff on trauma and its effects, as well as trauma-informed strategies that promote wellbeing.

The SEARCH pathways to wellbeing are a collection of evidence-based wellbeing strategies for supporting and raising children's mental health in schools. These include teaching skills like self-management, emotional regulation, action planning and positive coping skills.

Creating a trauma-informed school takes time, commitment and dedication from everyone in the school community. But the benefits of doing so – for students, staff and stakeholders have a huge and lasting impact.

Looking for more training and information

Trauma informed schools have many benefits for both students and staff. They can help improve academic achievement, provide a safe environment for students to discuss their trauma, and empower everyone in the school community.  Join our workshop on being trauma informed to learn more about integrating strategies for wellbeing into trauma informed practice.

To find out more about our approach to developing whole school wellbeing and how it supports a trauma-informed approach by accessing our free introduction to whole school wellbeing webinar

If you are ready to improve school wellbeing and reduce the impact of trauma join our DfE Assured Wellbeing Club today!

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