‘Trauma informed practice for school change’

Professor Helen Stokes Faculty of Education, University of Melbourne, Australia

School leaders are increasingly asking how they support teachers to provide a classroom environment that enables students to be ready to learn. Research in schools undertaking professional learning in Trauma informed positive education (TIPE) points to a way forward. These schools in low SES communities are restructured to be trauma informed and now centred on student wellbeing in the service of learning. At the heart is the need for healthy relationships to enhance learning in the classroom.

Underpinning the professional learning is the understanding that all school staff develop about the impact of trauma on the lives of these children and young people and what this means for the way that the students behave at school. Leaders, teachers and Education Support staff (ESS) become trauma aware and this changes the way that they interact and work with students. At a whole school level is the need to move from punitive to non punitive methods of behavioural management where school leaders are actively involved to support this process. Of importance is that leaders are there to support teachers and students and that they are not left to manage on their own.

Through the professional learning, leaders, teachers and ESS are provided with a range of strategies. One of the pivotal strategies to enable the move to a non punitive disciplinary approach is the Ready to learn plan where each student develops agreed upon strategies with their teachers to assist them to proactively manage their own behaviour. Drawing on research in secondary schools this includes leaders actively supporting teachers as they meet with students who leave the classroom for short periods of time until they are able to return and be ready to learn. Other strategies included proactively managing off-task behaviour (identifying micro-moments before they become critical incidences) and increasing pedagogical effectiveness using strategies such as “brain breaks” where students get to move their bodies and gain focus for the following learning task.

Although challenged by the impact of lockdowns and COVID over preceding years, implementing whole school changes to behavioural management and pedagogy has enabled students to be in the classroom and ready to learn. This has led to changes in protective factors for the children and young people. The students increasingly find that school is a safe space to be while both teachers and students report positive relationships (both student to student and teacher to student), increased trust and higher expectations (academic and social). Developing a trauma informed school enables children and young people to improve their health and wellbeing while achieving success in education.

Date: Wednesday 11th October 2023

Time: 5.00 - 7.00pm

Venue: Neil Hoey Theatre, Trinity Long Room Hub, Trinity College Dublin.

TLRH logo