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Childhood trauma in mainstream schools - Half your class have suffered at least 1 ACE

Updated: Jun 20, 2023

We hope you have had a great week. In this week’s blog we have put together a video for you to summarise this blog.

Half your class have suffered at least 1 adverse childhood experience

In today's post lockdown educational landscape, many young people have experienced trauma. In fact, a number of studies have demonstrated that just under 1 in every 2 of us has suffered at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE). That’s nearly half your class on average.

At the Youth Sports Trust Conference in Spring, 2022, Professor Barry Carpenter, the first mental health in education professor in the country said that ‘no one is escaping this pandemic untouched in some way.’ when highlighting the impact of Covid-19 on our young people and teachers. Therefore, the figures may now be higher than 1 in 2.

This is making it challenging for our young people to engage in their learning, display appropriate behaviour, and achieve academic success, which is also effecting theirs and our own wellbeing.

How does this show up in the classroom?

As the number of ACEs increases so does the chances of the young person having; learning difficulties, weak attainment, low attendance, low engagement and/or violent behaviour.

Learned Helplessness on the RISE

According to Award-winning author, Dr Mine Conkbayir, childhood trauma typically gives rise to learned helplessness in survivors.

Characteristics include:

  • Feeling useless

  • Wondering what’s the point

  • No one cares

  • Low motivation

  • Low self-confidence

  • Low/no expectations of success

  • Difficulty with persisting

  • Not asking for help

  • Ascribing a lack of success to a lack of ability

  • Ascribing success to factors beyond their control, such as luck.

As educators, you may well have seen and heard similar, or wondered why some children don't even try. It is vital to be familiar with Learned Helplessness and the possible signs, to avoid misjudging and labelling.

Not having any control over, or options to escape an abusive childhood takes its toll in countless horrific ways. Healthy brain development and function is impaired, which impacts self-regulation, behaviour and learning.

The ACE journey

ACEs set people on a journey from childhood trauma to early death, following a predictable pattern outlined in this image, without intervention.

Mechanisms by which adverse childhood experiences influence health & wellbeing throughout the lifespan.

Source: Brown, D.W. et al (2009) in their Adverse Childhood Experiences and the Risk of Premature Mortality study

It is becoming increasingly obvious that as teachers we need training in trauma informed strategies and techniques to support our young people effectively. With appropriate training we can transform relationships, engagement, wellbeing, attendance and behaviour in the short term and more importantly children’s life chances in the long term.

A solution for you

As Physical Education teachers, we understand the power of PE in positively shaping students' physical and emotional wellbeing. However, addressing the impact of trauma in your classes can be complex, especially with limited resources and professional development opportunities available.

We have spoken to dozens of brilliant PE teachers grappling with the above challenges over the last few years, just as we were.

We collaborated with leading experts in the field of trauma-informed practice and then road tested the adapted strategies in our own PE departments to make sure they work.

On the back of this, we have developed our Trauma Informed PE online teacher training course to equip you with the knowledge, strategies, and tools to effectively integrate trauma informed practices within your physical education curriculum.

The 7 Step Recover Roadmap

Let me now guide you through the 7 step Recover Roadmap we created to help you transform relationships with your young people, their engagement, behaviour, attendance and progress within 90 days, and their life chances in the long term.


Stage One – is called ‘Approach’ and informs you about the evidence base behind the decline in engagement, attendance, behaviour, and progress in a post-lockdown education world. Stage One covers Step One and Step Two.

‘Relationships’ is Step One and focuses on what a trauma-informed approach is, what Adverse Childhood Experiences are, and how this affects children in the classroom at the moment and their life chances, based on the ACEs studies.

Step Two is a story of hope and how ‘Emotionally Available Adults’ and the eight protective factors can break the cycle through the power of relationships. We clarify the role of the PE teacher in supporting young people recovering from trauma so you know what your role is and what it is not.


Stage Two is called ‘Implementation’ and is all about how we go about implementing a trauma-informed approach within Physical Education.

Step Three guides you on how to create psychological safety for our young people through the use of ‘Visuals and Vocals’ to transform relationships and enhance their engagement by triggering their social engagement system.

Step Four looks at how we can use physical activity to broaden our children's window of tolerance so that they feel calmer and make better decisions. We guide you how to use PE to develop a sense of belonging for young people and to help them feel loved. We then explore how we can support children's neurodevelopment and relationships through the power of play.

In Step Five, ‘Connect before Correct’, we guide you on how to manage challenging behaviour in a compassionate way that does not retraumatise our youngsters but maintains high standards so that you achieve the outcomes you need and want for effective teaching.


Stage Three is called ‘Impact’ and is about how we can have a broader impact across our school and wider society. It covers Step Six and Step Seven.

Step Six is called ‘Enhance’ and looks at the different ways we can have a whole-school impact using a trauma-informed approach.

In our final Step, ‘Recovery’, we explain some key points that you need to know when supporting young people suffering from trauma and share our secret formula for a transformational PE teacher in a post-lockdown education world.

Meeting your needs

As innovative, committed teachers, we appreciate that your time is precious so we have intentionally created this concise course so that it meets the needs of your busy schedule and location, wherever you are in the world.

Through video modules, articles and reflective tasks, you'll receive expert guidance tailored to your specific challenges and opportunities in your PE department and your wider school.

As part of our course, you will join a vibrant and supportive community of educators who share your passion for trauma informed teaching.

Taster resources for you

If you would like to know more, we have got a range of taster resources for you to try. We have created the ‘Enhancing Engagement Scorecard’ to help you track your progress in implementing Trauma Informed PE practice within 2 minutes.

This scorecard acts as a valuable tool for self-reflection and continuous improvement. Click on the link to take the first step and get your score.

We have got a course brochure to provide you with all the key information you need. Click here to download it.

Additionally, we offer a ‘Taster Trauma Informed PE Course’ for you to Step 1 of our full course so you can develop your understanding of what a trauma-informed approach is, what Adverse Childhood Experiences are, and how this affects children in the classroom at the moment and their life chances, based on the ACEs studies.

Click here to complete this 1 minute form to receive your personalised login.

Take the first step today to creating a better future for you and your young people.

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