TRAUMA-INFORMED HELP FOR SCHOOLS SINCE COVID
In summer, Merseyside’s VRP commissioned social enterprise, Restorative Thinking, to deliver trauma-informed training to support ten educational establishments in their response to their most vulnerable young people after experiencing significant disadvantages during the COVID epidemic. This included work with primary and secondary schools, and Pupil Referral Units (PRU).
“As schools adapt to working differently across all aspects of school life, pupils may be exposed to a range of adversity and trauma such as bereavement, anxiety and sometimes, increased welfare and safeguarding risks,” said Roger Thompson, VRP’s Education Lead.
“This may manifest when children return to school through challenging behaviours, potential exclusion and absenteeism. Schools have to prioritise additional support for those most vulnerable, and that definition of ‘vulnerable’ is expanding as more pupils experience difficulties.”
Despite the obvious current obstacles, schools are engaging enthusiastically with the project, accessing live training to explore restorative practice principles, experiencing skills practice and receiving personalised support in developing their recovery plans.
"We have been pleasantly surprised by the willingness of schools to engage with this project during such a tricky, unpredictable period,” said Lesley Parkinson, Executive Director of Restorative Thinking. “We feel that this is absolutely the right time for schools to experience everything that is happening day-to-day in schools through a trauma-informed lens.
“We draw on existing strengths in each school and equip them to draw on restorative and relational practice to help navigate the current period of change and uncertainty. That might transform the thinking that’s linked to: ‘that’s how we do things round here' to encouraging staff to better 'know' each child, to develop skills and consistency in all relationships, and to take care of pupil, staff, parent and carer mental health.”
Each school accesses three days of on-site consultancy and support to progress staff training, newly available recovery curriculum resource, develop school policies and procedures, (linking pastoral support and teaching and learning), while applying an ACE lens and trauma-informed approach (TIA).
“Merseyside VRP has been insightful in commissioning this project, allowing us to work on a needs-basis with each school. And, we are enjoying working with colleagues within Merseyside VRP and the schools which clearly value restorative and relational practice,” said Lesley.
Feedback from participants suggests educational establishments really benefit, including:
“I have taught for 22 years and have had a big part in the pastoral life at the school. The training gave a perspective into why sometimes our young pupils and parents deal with situations the way they do.”
“We have two teaching assistants now using the restorative questions for praise and when a pupil needs to talk. Early indications are that pupils really value the structure and that staff possess a lot of skills needed for those times in between the questions. Early evidence suggests that pupils don't have repeated incidents of being dysregulated once they have had a chance to be guided through the process and likewise the pupils that are guided through.”
The next few months will see the project develop, including the publication of guidance for all schools, and given the latest lockdown, Lesley says: “It seems that even more innovation is definitely called for!”