Trauma-Informed Practice expertise guides teachers in supporting pupils’ return to school

School teachers on Teesside University’s MA Education (Trauma-Informed Practice) have highlighted how they are applying their studies to support pupils who have been directly affected by Covid-19 and the implications of lockdown.

With schools remaining open to key worker and vulnerable children throughout the pandemic, and in the past month ‘reopening’ for further year groups, students on the course have been practising their learnings around what constitutes a traumatic event and how it impacts upon children and young people. The MA, which launched last September and can be studied full-time or part-time, is designed to enable teachers to develop capacity to operate as reflective professionals in trauma-informed educational settings.

Katie Harris, Team Leader for Year 3/4 pupils at Breckon Hill Primary School in Middlesbrough, who is studying the programme part-time and due to complete her MA in September 2021, said: “The course has helped me to support pupils affected by the pandemic because it has taught me to question behaviour and ask why it is occurring. I am better prepared to help a child identity their feelings and help them find ways to feel safer. I appreciate the importance of taking the time to talk to children about how they are feeling and working together to find strategies to help. The course and assignments have provided me with a bank of ideas that I can draw on to use in the classroom.”

She explained how the MA was preparing her for better supporting Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE), trauma-exposed and vulnerable pupils. “I signed up to the course as I wanted to know more about the effects of trauma on children and how best to help them in an education setting,” Katie said. “This was not covered when I was training as a teacher and I wanted to extend my own knowledge in order to best support the children in my care. Now I have a better understanding of the brain’s development, the barriers that can prevent ‘normal’ development, and how these may present themselves in a classroom. I also understand how some classroom practices can negatively affect pupils and I am learning to adapt these in order to reduce triggers and promote feelings of safety.”

Katie added that she felt able to better understand her pupils and identify how she can help them feel safer and happier in school. “I remember sitting in a lecture after a particularly long day and suddenly realising just how important schools and teachers are to a child’s life,” she revealed. “All teachers want to make a difference, but I never truly understood the power and influence we could have until then. Some of the content covered within the MA should be part of CPD for all teachers because it is so important to understand the barriers to learning that ACEs and trauma present and how this affects a child’s behaviour in the classroom.”

Sophie Nolan, a Year 3 teacher at another primary school, is also among the first cohort of students on the MA Education (Trauma-Informed Practice) based in Teesside’s School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Law.

“I feel privileged being able to understand, to a certain extent, how this pandemic may affect children’s relationships, academic achievement and personal growth. Comprehending the science behind a child’s brain functions has enabled me to better educate myself and my colleagues about the importance of the relationships we have with our pupils and how much of an impact we can have on them. Additionally, learning about many different techniques and practises that can help children, such as mindfulness, allows me to implement them to help pupils at my school during what I predict will be a difficult transition back to school,” she said.

Having started the MA last year, Sophie pointed to “a sense of excitement knowing that my pedagogy was growing” as she was able to integrate her new knowledge into practice. “Over the past few years, I have enjoyed the opportunity of teaching in a challenging area and helping many pupils who face many different hardships every day,” she said. “I know I have taken my role as a classroom teacher very seriously and have endeavoured to encourage and support not only the pupils in my class, but all of the pupils I have met. It is the challenges I see these pupils face daily that rooted my interest in the MA. Through theory and practice, I wanted to better equip myself in aiding any child who faces difficulty, and I wanted to improve my understanding of how ACEs could affect a child’s life.”

Sophie added: “This course has made me realise that any behaviours are external prompts for a how a child is feeling internally. Whilst teaching and supporting children from a deprived area, it has helped me better equip myself in understanding many of the various adversities my pupils may experience. I now feel capable and well informed to be able to evaluate different children’s behaviours, in conjunction with their home life circumstances, and be able to understand the theory behind why the children are the way they are. I would definitely recommend this MA, because I now know how important and necessary this course’s content is to educate professionals to best support and foster our children’s holistic development.”

Lynn Miles Star award nominee

For an informal discussion about opportunities to study the MA Education (Trauma-Informed Practice) or the new Postgraduate Certificate in Trauma-Informed Learning and Teaching which is available for educators of children and young people across all settings, please contact Lynn Miles at The trauma team in Teesside University’s Department of Education and Social Work also offer CPD and short courses, both face-to-face and online, and are available for consultancy work. For further details please contact / telephone 01642 384068.