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Trauma Informed PE Case Study

We hope you have had a great week. We have been delighted with the response to our new 'Trauma Informed PE' course from innovative PE colleagues. This 5 star review and comment is typical of the responses we are getting.

The course 'has made me reflect quite seriously on my interactions with pupils and how I can make these more positive for us both. It will impact on our provision and pupil engagement.'

Mr Kemp, Head of PE, Diss High

In this week's blog, we demonstrate through a case study how you can implement 'Trauma Informed PE' in your setting.

The aim is to engage those young people who may feel disengaged in physical education, repair relationships, reduce incidences of student behaviour that we find challenging, and create meaningful PE experiences for our young people that can contribute to improving their life chances.

In the case study we will illustrate how our founder, Neil Moggan, implemented a 'Trauma Informed PE' approach in a Year 8 PE lesson in an inner city school in Norwich. We will look at:

  • Prioritising relationships

  • Creating psychological safety

  • Creating a sense of belonging

  • Using physical activity to widen our children's window of tolerance

  • Creating a non-judgemental environment


Post Covid, we had a group of year eight girls who were struggling with their mental health, friendships and general confidence, and it was affecting their willingness to engage in their PE lessons.

Year 8 can be a tricky year anyway for some girls' engagement as they go through puberty and start to recognise social pressures more and this was even more evident post lockdown.

Creating psychological safety

I wanted this lesson to be the first step to re-engage the group in PE. I wanted to create a psychologically safe environment where the girls felt comfortable, and free to take part without feeling judged, under threat or worried about their performance. I also wanted to give our young people greater ownership over their PE lesson.

This was important because a trauma aware approach seeks to provide an environment that means that when we are vulnerable, the environment we are in will aid recovery and healing and not add to it. The last thing I wanted to be doing was to retraumatise the young people in my care.

Learning objectives were as follows:

Head: To understand the link between physical activity and mental wellbeing and to develop our self kindness.

Hands: To take part in a range of physical activities to boost mental wellbeing.

Heart: To try our best and create a safe environment for everyone to thrive.


The first thing I did was to meet and greet our young people in an ultra positive way. I did this by using face, voice, and body to smile and welcome young people to the class. I high fived those students on entrance and made sure my voice was attuned and positive.

Introducing RISE categories

When introducing the lesson I stressed that the focus was purely on improving their mental wellbeing through being physically active rather than the girls being judged or assessed. I introduced the 4 RISE categories and how each category could benefit their mental wellbeing in a different way. (Click on this link for our previous blog on the 4 RISE categories)

Student ownership

I gave students a range of physical activities from the RISE programme that we could offer in our sports hall and explained to the girls that we would create a carousel of activities that students could choose to take part in at their discretion.

After giving them a range of options, they voted for a circuit of skipping, a punchbag and small sided games of football and dodgeball.

Benefits of physical activity on mental wellbeing

I then explained how each activity would benefit their mental wellbeing. For example, the team games of football and dodgeball would help them have that social connection we all need, which would release oxytocin and make them feel loved.

I encouraged the girls to demonstrate their leadership skills by creating their teams and making everyone feel welcome as and when they joined the activity.

With the punch bag they were able to take their very obvious stress and frustration out in a safe and controlled way.

Skipping enabled their amygdala to be calmed through repetitive activities that increased the window of tolerance and helped them feel more motivated.

Skipping also enabled them to play skipping games they used to play in primary school to trigger their play system in a caring environment.

Prioritising relationships

It was really important that I was as positive as possible with youngsters to create a classroom that was wrapped in care so that our children felt psychologically safe.

As the girls took part in the activities that most appealed to them, I would circulate round and talk to them to show an interest in their lives and deepen the relationship. Investing in these relationships was critical if I was going to re-engage the group over the coming weeks and months.

Developing Self Kindness

Halfway through the lesson, I stopped the girls from their activities and did some work with them around self kindness. We asked the girls how they would support a friend who had made a mistake.

I asked them what advice they would give them, and then asked them to contrast that with how they would speak to themselves with their inner voice if they had made the same mistake.

Most of the girls recognised that they would be a lot harsher on themselves than they would their friend.

I then talked about the importance of being kind to ourselves through being mindful of our inner voice, and how their relationship with themselves is the most important relationship they will have, as they are stuck with their inner voice for the rest of their lives.

Exit ticket challenge

The girls then returned to their preferred activity for the rest of the lesson. To exit the classroom I set the girls the challenge of telling us which 'Rise' Category of activity they had enjoyed the most, what specific activity they had completed and finally how the activity had improved their mental wellbeing.

I got some great responses from the girls showing they had taken a lot from the lesson. Keeley said ‘My favourite activity was the stress buster through using the punchbag. It helped me get all my stress and frustration out and I feel a lot calmer now.’

Sarah said ‘I preferred dodgeball which is an inclusive team game, I loved playing with my friends and we had a lot of fun. It was nice to laugh with them and exercise together.’


The lesson proved to be a great first step in re-engaging the group within Physical Education. When analysing why the lesson was such a success, the girls gave me some brilliant feedback:

They really enjoyed the freedom to choose their activities, they loved the emphasis on prioritising relationships over performance and they thrived on the supportive, non judgemental environment I created for them.

Creating a blueprint

It gave me a blueprint on how to move forward with them so that they would love being physically active for life and understand how it can benefit their mental wellbeing.

In the weeks that followed, the girls would regularly ask for this style of lesson so we incorporated more of this with additional self-care tools to help them improve their mental wellbeing and develop their engagement in Physical Education.

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 us 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.

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.

We hope you found this week's blog insightful, we would love you to join our community of teachers committed to transforming the life chances of their children. Please make sure you subscribe to our newsletter to join us so you don’t miss the next edition.

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