In the pursuit of creating a truly equitable education system, it's essential that we recognise the unique challenges faced by pupil premium students, many of whom have endured adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
The correlation between ACEs and various difficulties in school, as well as long-term life prospects, is undeniable. However, a transformative approach to education that centres on relationships can turn the tide and empower these young people to thrive.
In this blog post, we delve into why pupil premium policies and provisions should be firmly grounded in fostering meaningful connections.
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
Understanding ACEs and Their Impact
Adverse Childhood Experiences encompass a range of traumatic events that a young person may have faced, such as abuse, neglect, household dysfunction, or witnessing domestic violence.
Studies have shown a direct link between the number of ACEs a student has experienced and their likelihood of facing disruptions in school, including issues related to behaviour, learning, wellbeing, and engagement.
Moreover, these experiences can have long-term consequences, diminishing life prospects and widening the opportunity gap.
Placing Relationships at the Heart of Pupil Premium Policy
To address these challenges, it's imperative that pupil premium policies prioritise relationships. By doing so, we can create an environment where students feel valued, supported, and understood.
A holistic approach that integrates the eight protective factors can pave the way for effective interventions and reduce the likelihood of children going on the predictable pattern outlined above.
Swarbrick's 8 Dimensions of Wellness Model
One framework that aligns perfectly with the goal of nurturing pupil premium students is Swarbrick's 8 Dimensions of Wellness Model.
By focusing on these dimensions, educators can equip themselves with the tools to cater to the holistic needs of their students. This approach extends beyond academic success and addresses mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
Equipping Educators for Impactful Engagement
Training educators in early intervention mental wellbeing strategies is a critical step. This empowers students with a toolkit of self-care strategies, promoting emotional regulation, and resilience.
Raising aspirations is vital; by fostering a sense of purpose and belonging within the school environment, students are less likely to seek validation and belonging from negative influences, such as gangs.
Additionally, educating students about the connection between physical activity and mental well-being can empower them to take ownership of their holistic health.
Beyond Academics: Financial Literacy and Aspiration Building
Recognising that education extends beyond the classroom, schools can introduce financial literacy education and cultural capital enrichment programmes.
This equips young people with essential life skills and provides them with the tools to bridge the social mobility gap.
Norfolk County Council: A Beacon of Progress
Forward-thinking councils, like Norfolk County Council, have embraced a proactive approach to education. By investing in a teacher workforce that is primed for readiness, rather than mere reaction, they have set the stage for transformation.
In conclusion, a pupil premium policy and provision that is rooted in relationships can redefine the educational landscape. By acknowledging and addressing the challenges posed by ACEs, and integrating wellness-focused strategies, we can nurture the potential of every student.
As we learn from the experiences of councils like Norfolk County Council, it becomes clear that proactive investment in the wellbeing and growth of pupil premium students yields dividends that extend far beyond the classroom. Together, we can shape an educational system that champions equity, empowerment, and lasting positive change.
Does your pupil premium policy and provision take into account the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences and the 8 protective factors required to reduce the impact on a child's long term life chances?
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