Reflecting our approach – Head of Inclusion College Marie Greenhalgh reflects on our organisation approach to learning
I have used some time this Easter to catch up on CPD and finish some courses I had enrolled on (shh, anyone that knows me!). The first I completed was Trauma-Informed Certificate for Coaches’ from The Centre for Healing.
“Trauma has to be one of the most misunderstood forms of human suffering and underlies many mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and addiction. For a long time coaches, therapists, psychologists and other mental health practitioners have been attempting to resolve trauma using the cognitive mind, but recent studies have shown that the effects of trauma are stored within the body. Meaning trauma is not only a psychological issue, it is an issue that affects the whole system.
Trauma is not a disorder, it is an adaptation. Our nervous system adapts to feeling unsafe, it adapts to traumatic circumstances until we are left with a baseline and undercurrent of impending doom and a deficient sense of self. We have to redefine trauma, and we have to deepen our understanding of it if we are going to work with it in an effective way. It is the driver behind so much of our dysfunction as human beings, yet we are unaware of how deeply it runs within us as a collective.’* 1
This is something that I have been interested in for a while now and I recommend The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk to anyone interested in this topic.
This course led me to reflecting on what we at Inclusion Hampshire define as ‘trauma – informed ‘and how this translates into our settings and our practice. ‘Trauma-informed’ is often used and carries the risk of being a buzzword in education, without the deep seated knowledge to implement.
GovUK defines it as:
● Realising that trauma can affect individuals, groups and communities
● Trauma-informed practice is an approach to health and care interventions which is
grounded in the understanding that trauma exposure can impact an individual’s neurological, biological, psychological and social development.
There are 6 principles of trauma-informed practice: safety, trust, choice, collaboration, empowerment and cultural consideration.
What does that look like at Inclusion Hampshire?
● Working with students to identify what will help them to feel safe
● Students feeling safe
● Students knowing they can speak to a member of staff of they don’t feel safe and they will
be heard and action will be taken
● Developing a feeling of belonging
● Thought into everything from what room they sit in, where in the room, sensory needs,
who is their key member of staff, how can they communicate especially if their feelings are
escalating, and safe spaces they can go
● Robust policies, practices and safeguarding in place that are regularly reviewed.
This one is essential to us and forming relationships based on trust and mutual respect. Never promise anything you can’t deliver. Explain all decisions and reasoning and act transparently at all times.
Students are supported in decision-making, choice and goal setting to determine their journey by:
● ensuring students have a voice. This could be through their key staff, though Student voice panel meetings, student newsletter, student led events and campaigns, feedback on sessions and curriculum, surveys and worry boxes.
● Staff prioritise listening to the needs and wishes of students
● Through knowledge and training, staff acknowledge that people who have experienced or are experiencing trauma may feel a lack of safety or control over the course of their life which can cause difficulties in developing trusting relationships and it is building this relationship that is prioritised.
The value of staff and service user experience is recognised in overcoming challenges and improving the system as a whole, by:
● using formal and informal peer support and mutual self-help
● the organisation asking service users and staff what they need and collaboratively considering how these needs can be met
● focussing on working alongside and actively involving service users in the delivery of services.
We empower our students by:
● Active listening to what they want and need
● Validating feelings and concerns, never dismissing
● Supporting them to make decisions and take action
● Staff have the knowledge and training, and acknowledge that people who have experienced or are experiencing trauma may feel powerless to control what happens to them, isolated by their experiences and have feelings of low self-worth. We have specific support plans and teaching to build this
● Encouraging students to plan their own sessions and activities including awareness days and campaigns and themed days throughout the year
● Seek their feedback on sessions and curriculum, we ask them what do they want or need to learn?
● Increase their confidence and pride by displaying and publishing their work around the college and school and online on our website and social media.
● We sensitively acknowledge yet challenge cultural stereotypes and biases based on gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, disability, geography, race or ethnicity.
● This includes specific teaching on prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination
● We celebrate and educate through Awareness Days and campaigns throughout the year
● We have extensive and detailed practices and policies related to equality and diversity and
supporting LGBTQ+ students.
The second course I completed was Place2Be Mental Health Champions. In the Unit covering Attachment theory (Bowlby) I came across a phrase that really struck a chord with me:
‘Attachment aware’. ‘Attachment aware schools are schools who understand the importance of relationships for everyone in the school community, children, staff and parents. They understand that for
all of us, children and adults alike, our emotions are expressed through our behaviour. ‘ * 2
What does that look like at Inclusion Hampshire?
● We value our staff highly, work hard on our staff welfare and support, and clearly and explicitly role model this to our students.
● Each student has an individual starting point and different experiences so we work with them on an individual plan for progression
● Students have key staff, to help develop secure attachments and encourage
● Staff are knowledgeable that students who have experienced significant relational traumas and losses often have developmental vulnerabilities in the following areas –in their executive functioning, regulation and psychological development. Teaching and activities are tailored to support these needs.
● We provide regular sensory breaks and activities designed to encourage emotional regulation through movement and creativity such as dance, music, drama, art and yoga
● We recognise the importance of relationships with families and dedicate time to supporting them as well and communicating frequently.
In conclusion, trauma- informed, attachment aware settings are really what we are about – putting our students and their needs at the heart of everything we do.
For more information on any of the above, or anything else feel free to email me!