Whole school approaches to attachment and trauma (secondary schools)

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Category: Blog

Richard Glenny is the Deputy Head of Priestlands School in the New Forest, a large secondary school with 1250 students and more than 150 staff. Richard gave a Rees Centre webinar on 7 November 2018. We have summarised his key points below. At the end of the blog are questions raised by some of the webinar participants. 

What are the benefits and challenges faced by secondary schools when implementing whole school approaches to attachment and trauma?

Priestlands School has been using attachment aware and trauma informed approaches for several years. Richard’s key message was the powerful influence of high quality relationships which create a climate conducive to good behaviour and learning. All staff were initially trained in attachment, trauma and emotion coaching which helps pupils to self-regulate and manage their stress.

What is emotion coaching?

Key staff were given additional training and once staff had developed greater confidence, they trained the local feeder primary school staff before introducing the ideas to some of the parents. To ensure continuity and sustainability, new staff are inducted each September.

What were the benefits and challenges?

While pupils, key staff and some parents gave positive feedback about developing better understanding of behaviours and the school climate improved, embedding the approaches throughout subject departments was more of a challenge. Breaking established habits is a major barrier to the first step in emotion coaching – empathising, validating and labelling.

Capacity to emotion coach during lessons is limited unless there are support staff present. Consistency across staff and within same staff across time are challenging and require ‘little and often’ Continuing Professional Development.

The webinar participants raised some important questions:

  • Did the school revise its behaviour policy in the light of the work on attachment and trauma? Richard explained that it was generally consistent with this approach already.
  • If you are not expecting to be able to measure ‘hard’ outcomes from this work, how are the benefits presented to parents, governors and external agencies?
  • How can you ‘timetable’ the emotion coaching with the ‘right’ (pupil selected) staff member when sometimes it can’t take place immediately and a pupil might take an hour to calm down?