In 2020 we were delighted to begin our journey to become a Trauma Informed School. This is something we have worked towards for a long time and were fortunate enough to train, reflect and become practitioners in trauma informed care with Quality Matters. Our training with QM has reinforced our belief that those experiencing or who have survived trauma should be able to access services where they feel safe, supported and encouraged to heal and grow.
Compassion is already a fundamental element of our practice. Our school policies and practice aspire to go beyond understanding, we are committed to alleviating the sensitivities and suffering that members of our school community may experience. Compassion is sensitivity to the suffering of oneself and others, offering care and attention in the hope of instilling courage and strength to those who may be feeling overwhelmed. While also embedding Empathy in our school practices, we aim to understand and respect the thinking, feeling and behaviour of our students and school community.
What is Trauma?
Traumatic events happen to all people, at all ages, across our society. Trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACE’s) include exposure to abuse or neglect but also may include grief and loss of a loved one, parental separation, community violence, asylum seeking, medical trauma, experience of a family member with a mental illness or experience to a natural disaster.
These events can cause terror, intense fear, horror, helplessness, and physical stress reactions. Sometimes the impact of these events does not simply go away when they are over. Instead, some traumatic events are profound experiences that can change the way children, adolescents and adults see themselves and the world. Sometimes the impact of the trauma is not felt until weeks, months or even years after the traumatic event. The effects of exposure to traumatic events varies for each person.
What does Trauma Informed mean?
Being trauma informed means that we approach our work with the understanding that there are children and families in our school who may have current or past traumatic experiences. We understand the impact of adversity and trauma on someone’s behaviour, learning and emotions.
We aim to recognise, realise and respond to our students who have experienced trauma or adversity (SAMHSA, 2014). The effects of exposure to traumatic events varies for each person; a traumatic experience can be temporarily distressing, or have longer-lasting, more destabilising effects. The experience of trauma can overwhelm one’s normal capacity to cope and so the after-effects of the event, are subjective and unique for everyone.
We understand that someone feeling overwhelmed would want to avoid thinking about trauma, avoid being vulnerable with people and avoid situations where they don’t feel safe. Coping behaviour is often about survival and self-protection. With this in mind, we can change the conversation and strive to act with understanding, avoiding judgment.
What does Trauma Informed look like in our School?
Our whole school approach to being trauma informed means that our school and classroom level policies, practices and the overall culture are considered and, when necessary, revised to assist children and young people who have been impacted by adversity or trauma.
Our school aims to:
Facilitate Connections & Develop Relationships
Help children to manage emotions
Trauma-informed practice includes providing clear boundaries and clear communication of expected behaviour but also a reduction in punitive responses to behaviour. It means we operate from the mindset that the behaviours we see are often ways that children or family members have learned to cope and adapt as a result of trauma. Behaviour is communication and often the result of coping and survival. We aim to teach children strategies that will work when they become overwhelmed. We are curious about what our students are trying to tell us through their behaviour. Instead of asking “What’s wrong with this child?” we ask, “What happened to this child?”
Connections with peers and adults can be scary to children who have been hurt by those they were supposed to be able to trust or rely on for care. Teaching strategies for managing difficult emotions, and not reacting negatively when the child expresses them, will increase safety, trust and connections. As a school we are very mindful of power and control. Traumatic experiences can leave people feeling powerless and out of control. Choices can be meaningful. Finding ways to give our students voice and choice empowers them, which is a trauma-informed care imperative.
Being Trauma Informed means we aim to understand and respect the thinking, feeling and behaviour of our students and school community.
All staff members in our school community are trained in Trauma Informed Care and Practices. We are a member of Trauma Responsive Education and work together to make necessary changes. We have advocates/leaders in our school community who form our Care Team, which is built upon the principals of embedding a trauma informed approach and restorative practices as core pillars of our school.
We are on a journey, a cultural shift in our organisation, which we believe could have a far-reaching impact on our students and wider community. We love to talk about this movement and feel it has so much to offer our schools, communities and society.
Our journey means that we continuously strive to:
Understand trauma and stress
Establish safety and predictability
Foster compassionate, trustworthy relationships
Promote resilience and social emotional learning
Look after ourselves and ensure the well-being of each other
Remember, we are always here to support you and your family at any time, especially through the difficult times.
We are always happy to link with services in order to best support family engagement, empowerment, and collaboration.
For further info…