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Matilda & Changing The End Of Our Children’s Story

This week's trauma informed insight has been inspired by a cinema trip our founder, Neil Moggan, had with his family to watch Matilda the Musical.

Whilst watching the film and listening to the soundtrack, one song really resonated with him and provided a source of inspiration about how we can help our young people ‘change their story’ using trauma informed practice.

In this weeks’ blog we are exploring why implementing a trauma informed approach in your school is so critical to the life chances of your young people who have suffered from trauma.

We know that children are struggling at the moment in the aftermath of Covid. We currently have 6 full Wembley stadiums jam packed with children waiting to be seen by Mental Health professionals in this country, some of these children have been waiting over 2 years to be seen.

We also know that schools are struggling with managing wellbeing, attendance, engagement and progress in a post Covid education world. Behaviour strategies that generally worked pre Covid are no longer working and are pushing children and their teachers further and further apart.

Credit - Dan Smith / Netflix

Having witnessed this in our own schools and speaking to colleagues up and down the country, we know that these are major issues in our schools at the moment.

We need new solutions to improve the situation now and even more so in the future. If we don’t do something now the effects will be devastating for society by the year 2050.

We are convinced that the answer is implementing trauma informed practice in all schools. This is based on what we have implemented in our own schools and the impact it has had, in contrast to a traditional behavioural model.

So why will trauma informed practice be better in the short and long term for our children, teachers and society?

I was sure that I

Would never escape the story I'd

Had written for me

I couldn't find a way out

I couldn't see beyond the clouds

That swirled around me

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study)

The ACE Study was one of the biggest Public Health Studies of all time. Researchers interviewed 17,000 people and found that ACEs are the leading determinant of the most common forms of physical illness, mental illness and early death in the Western World. Cancer, diabetes, heart attacks, depression and anxiety are all linked to ACEs.

ACEs set people on a journey from childhood trauma to early death, following a predictable pattern outlined in this image.

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

I believed that I (I believed that I)

Would never be able to rely (Would never find anybody else)

On anybody else

And I was sure that I (And I was sure that I)

Would just have to learn to survive (Would always be all by myself)

All by myself

How does this show up in schools?

As the number of ACEs increase, so does the chance of your young people struggling with disrupted neurodevelopment impairing their social, emotional and cognitive functions. This manifests itself in learning difficulties, weak attainment, low attendance, violent behaviour, being given a diagnosis of ADHD and being disengaged.

With each additional ACE there is an increased risk of learning difficulties, behaviour problems, obesity and becoming a serious offender by age 35, as people turn to unhealthy coping strategies to survive.[1]

Are there any children in your school who you are starting to spot the pattern with?

Then one day, I opened my eyes

And looked up to find

That the sky had turned blindingly blue

And right by my side, there was you

Quietly taking your stand

And you are holding my hand

A story of hope

Research completed by Brown, D.W. et al (2009) in their Adverse Childhood Experiences and the Risk of Premature Mortality study, showed that this suffering is preventable by 8 protective factors.

Interventions by emotionally available adults before the age of 18 can interrupt the trajectory from childhood adversity to challenging behaviour, learning difficulties, long term mental, physical and societal ill-health.

Under 18s can recover from trauma if they are helped to make sense of their story by an emotionally available adult.

What are the protective factors?

In the image you can see the 8 protective factors that emotionally available adults can provide .

You were there as I battled my fears

I fell and you helped me to stand

When the storm finally cleared (You were there)

You were still holding my hand

You were still holding my hand

You kicked down the doors for me (Kicked down the doors for me)

You helped me understand (You helped me understand)

There was another version of me

What can we do as frontline teachers?

It is very difficult for teachers to provide the first 4 protective factors, in blue, but we believe that teachers can absolutely provide the final 4 protective factors, in green:

  • When I was a child there were people who helped me feel better when I was sad or worried.

  • When I felt bad I could almost always find someone I could trust to talk to.

  • There are people I can count on now.

  • Someone in my childhood believed in me.

One emotionally available adult can make all the difference for a young person who has suffered from trauma and that one person can often be found in our classrooms.

When we implement a trauma informed approach successfully, we trigger the social engagement system and start to work together as a class rather than in a battle against each other to win.

Enjoyment returns to the classroom for both children and us as teachers. Children become more engaged, behaviour issues melt away and children start to fly and make progress. The more we are triggering the social engagement system, the more the relationships deepen and the safer our young people feel with us.

Longer term, this gives us the opportunity to show we care and to communicate protective factors, leading to trust that can break the ACE cycle and show children there is a different story ahead for them.

You were still holding my hand

You were just there for me (I will be brave)

Quietly taking a stand

Changing the end of my story for me

What if that one person is you?

We recently featured the story of Ian Wright and the transformational impact Mr Pigden had on Ian’s future. What if you had a similar impact on one or more of your young people currently in your care. What a legacy to leave and what a gift to give to someone.

I was fortunate enough to have coffee with a brilliant headteacher, Rob Connelly, just a few weeks ago, whose stated aim was to be Mr Pigden for his young people. His philosophy is rooted in love and care for his children, staff and families.

There are many inspirational leaders and teachers up and down the country, like Rob, doing this on a daily basis but we need more. We need an army of leaders and teachers to invest in and adopt trauma informed practice in our schools to break the cycle and change the endings of our children’s stories.

We need more leaders and teachers to be brave enough to lead with love.

Credit - Dan Smith / Netflix

Source: [1] Fuller-Thomson, E & Lewis D (2015) The relationship between early adversities and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, child abuse & neglect, Volume 47 Sept 2015 Pages 94-101.

Opportunities for you:

All the content from today's blog was taken from our ‘RECOVER’ roadmap. The ‘RECOVER’ roadmap guides teachers how to implement trauma informed practice in Physical Education to transform relationships leading to improved outcomes in wellbeing, engagement, behaviour, & progress within 90 days, and children’s life chances in the long term.

A number of departments are receiving this training in person before we release our online teacher training course in June so that many more teachers and their young people can benefit wherever your location in the world.

If you would like to host one of these in person CPD sessions for your network/trust/partnership or council to ensure you are one of the first group of innovative teachers to receive this training then please get in touch so we can discuss your needs.

Alternatively, if you want to be kept up to date with the online course then please also reach out so we can keep you in the loop.

Join us at the Liverpool School Sports Partnership Conference

Neil will be presenting a session on implementing Trauma Informed Practice in PE at the Liverpool School Sports Partnership Conference on 22nd March. We would love to see you there so click on the image for more information about how you can secure your seat.

We hope you got value from today's blog. Get in touch if we can help you achieve your goals.

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