Developing guidelines for becoming a trauma informed school

Clare Law, Director at Blackpool Better Start, discusses how the partnership has developed resources for schools to use as they become more trauma informed.

Clare Law

This month the Blackpool Centre for Early Child Development (CECD) is thrilled to be launching guidelines to support schools to become more trauma informed. CECD has produced the guide in partnership with collective impact charity, Right to Succeed, and has created a user-friendly document that shares the science about the impact of trauma in an accessible format while providing clear and practical tips for delivering a trauma informed approach.

The guide follows a culmination of trauma work over several years with healthcare, police, and education professionals and it combines theoretical knowledge with research from five pilot schools in Blackpool.

Whilst there is increasingly more information available about the importance of becoming trauma informed, we wanted to really understand our local picture and the lived experience of staff.

An incredible 573 interviews with school staff took place to help establish the current level of need for the guide, and to help form the basis of the content. Our research showed that 96% of Blackpool school staff agreed that applying a trauma informed approach was important and one school staff member said they wanted to: “…ensure all staff are trauma informed so support is always available, and students know they can approach any member of staff who they feel comfortable with...”.

The guide is universal, and it is aimed at everyone working within a school setting including senior leadership teams, teachers, teaching assistants, support staff, welfare officers, administrative, domestic, and building maintenance staff.

We know that schools are under increasing pressure and so we were very mindful not to add further burden. Feedback on the length and style of the document has helped to create something which is written in a simple and readable format but also directs people to further learning if required.

Within the guide there are sections that help staff to recognise and understand the impact of psychological trauma; recognise how trauma may present during the school day; use practical advice to support the needs of children and support the school in becoming trauma informed. We know that trauma informed approaches can sometimes seem intangible; this guide aims to provide clarity on what being trauma informed could look like in practice.

It also outlines areas for creating a trauma-informed system and looks at the importance of staff well-being, the value of lived experiences, the importance of working with families, and how to achieve a whole school approach.

Staff wellbeing was highlighted in the research as not being a high enough priority for schools, due to competing demands, and 40% of the staff we asked did not feel that procedures were yet in place in their school to recognise the importance of support for staff well-being. One school staff member said: “Staff wellbeing and mental health is something that I think we pay lip service to.” The guide draws attention to the need for a more holistic approach to becoming trauma informed and clearly articulates that to provide psychological safety, staff need to feel safe too.

The guide will be launched this week to local primary and secondary schools and will be available online as a resource for educational settings throughout the UK. To download a copy, please visit the Blackpool Better Start website.

About A Better Start

A Better Start is a ten-year (2015-2025), £215 million programme set-up by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.

Five A Better Start partnerships based in Blackpool, Bradford, Lambeth, Nottingham and Southend are supporting families to give their babies and very young children the best possible start in life. Working with local parents, the A Better Start partnerships are developing and testing ways to improve their children’s diet and nutrition, social and emotional development, and speech, language and communication.

The work of the programme is grounded in scientific evidence and research. A Better Start is place-based and enabling systems change. It aims to improve the way that organisations work together and with families to shift attitudes and spending towards preventing problems that can start in early life. It is one of five major programmes set up by The National Lottery Community Fund to test and learn from new approaches to designing services which aim to make people’s lives healthier and happier

The National Children’s Bureau is coordinating an ambitious programme of shared learning for A Better Start, disseminating the partnerships’ experiences in creating innovative services far and wide, so that others working in early childhood development or place-based systems change can benefit.

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Visit the A Better Start website to find out more.