Woman teaching a girl with exercise book

What is Trauma-informed Practice in Schools? 

James Hourihan, Author

Schools are the ideal environment to foster a child’s learning and growth. As such, it is important to properly address the needs of all learners – especially those who have experienced trauma or are at risk of it. 

Research suggests that around half of children and young people living in the UK will have experienced traumatic events or adverse experiences. These can have an enduring impact on their cognitive, social and emotional development. So, it’s essential to recognise traumatic stress and respond effectively to help students heal, thrive, and reach their full potential.

In this blog, we will discuss what constitutes trauma-informed practice in schools, the benefits it offers to students and educators, and provide actionable steps to become a trauma-informed school.

What is Trauma-Informed Practice?

Trauma-informed practice refers to an approach that acknowledges the prevalence of trauma in individuals’ lives and seeks to create safe and supportive spaces. By adopting trauma-informed practices, schools aim to promote resilience, understanding, and empowerment among students.

There are six key principles of trauma-informed practice:

  1. Safety: Prioritising physical and emotional safety for students, staff, and the overall school environment.
  1. Trustworthiness: Building trust by maintaining clear and consistent communication, while promoting transparency in decision-making processes.
  1. Choice: Encouraging students to have a voice in decisions that impact them and empowering them to make choices, advocating self-efficacy and autonomy.
  1. Collaboration and Mutuality: Fostering partnerships among students, families, and staff to promote shared decision-making and collaborative problem-solving.
  1. Cultural, Historical, and Gender Sensitivity: Recognising and respecting the diverse experiences and identities of students, while understanding the impact of historical and cultural contexts.
  1. Resilience and Strengths-Based: Focusing on promoting resilience and the strengths and abilities of students, creating a positive outlook for the future.

The Benefits of Trauma-Informed Practice in Schools

Implementing trauma-informed practices yields numerous benefits for students, teachers, and the entire school community. 

Improved Student Wellbeing

Trauma-informed practice ensures that schools put the emotional and psychological needs of their students first. This holistic approach addresses trauma’s underlying cause instead of punishing challenging behaviour to provide a safe and supportive environment for students. 

Reduced Challenging Behaviour and Use of Restraint

Traditional punishment-based discipline techniques, such as isolation or physical restraint are often ineffective and proven to exacerbate feelings of trauma. Instead, trauma-informed schools focus on building trust between teachers and students, resulting in positive behaviour and reduced aggression. 

Enhanced Academic Performance

Students who feel safe, valued, and supported in the classroom tend to demonstrate higher levels of engagement. A focus on social-emotional learning prepares students for academic success, while non-restrictive interventions help overcome the negative impact of trauma. 

Higher Attendance Rates

Schools that adopt a trauma-informed approach are more likely to have better attendance rates. Data from the DfE highlights anxiety and poor mental health are one of the most significant drivers of absenteeism. By providing the necessary support, students develop stronger connections to their teachers  and peers, leading to regular attendance and optimal learning outcomes. 

Positive School Climate

Trauma-informed schools foster a positive climate characterised by strong relationships, trust, and respect among teachers, students, and families. This inclusive and harmonious learning environment cultivates a sense of teamwork and collaboration, allowing all stakeholders to thrive together.

Increased Teacher Satisfaction

Lastly, implementing trauma-informed practices contributes to higher teacher satisfaction, as educators feel better equipped with the skills and knowledge to support their students’ needs. This leads to a culture of mindfulness and empathy, which reduces the likelihood of conflict and burnout, while improving overall job performance. 

How to Become a Trauma-Informed School

Becoming a trauma-informed school requires a systematic approach and commitment from all stakeholders. Here are some essential steps to take: 

Education and Training: Through comprehensive training and resources, staff members become better equipped to understand trauma, its impact, and use trauma-informed practices to meet the unique needs of students who have experienced trauma. 

Assess and Adapt Policies: Review and modify existing policies to align with trauma-informed principles. This includes a clear code of conduct that upholds the values of safety, empathy and respect, as well as providing support services for students who need it.

Supportive Classroom Environments: Foster positive teacher-student relationships, create predictable routines, and implement strategies such as mindfulness and self-regulation techniques into the curriculum. 

Get Started with Timian 

Trauma-informed practice is a critical approach for educators who want to make a real difference in the lives of their students. 

Our BILD Act certified positive behaviour management training programme helps schools to develop a communication ethos, implement effective de-escalation techniques, and reduce the need for restraint.

If you’re ready to deepen your understanding of trauma-informed practices, don’t hesitate to book a course with us today. Simply give us a call at 0800 987 4075 or fill out the form on our website. 

Let us guide you on the path towards creating a supportive and nurturing educational experience for all.

Sign up to our newsletter to receive our helpful learning resources for free

Further Reading From Timian

Sign up to our newsletter to receive our helpful guide on reducing crisis situations