Before joining Protocol Education as a consultant, Lucy Foster worked for nine years in mainstream and Special Needs schools in various support roles. During this time, Lucy received training in Trauma Informed Practice. Here Lucy reflects on her route into education and her experiences as a support staff member utilising Trauma Informed Practice models in both mainstream and specialist schools.
I started my career in education in 2012. I was in my early twenties and working three jobs to make ends meet. I had earlier completed a Community Drama degree, and as part of the course, I worked with pupils at a secondary school.
I had yet to learn this experience would enable me to register with an education recruitment agency. At first, working in schools was just a way to pay my rent, but then I started to build relationships with staff and pupils and found being part of a school community enlightening. I found a permanent job as a Teaching Assistant in a mainstream secondary school and, from there, began my journey into the world of Special Educational Needs.
I have always worked as a support staff member, and I am proud to say that I built myself up through the nine years, from a TA to a managerial role. I gained so much experience and was grateful to my previous managers, who allowed me to attend lots of training, including Attachment & Trauma – Trauma Informed Practice.
My Experience with Attachment & Trauma
Attachment and Trauma training helps educators understand trauma's impact on a child's behaviour, development, relationships, and survival strategies. The training allows us to create plans for the child and family and helps us to respond to the child's traumatic stress.
Attachment and Trauma training identifies attachment styles and highlights behaviours often displayed in the classroom—for example, running away testing boundaries, and manipulation. The support required to ensure pupils could get the help they needed took time and patience.
The framework is a great way to understand how trauma affects a young person. To see how you can try various methods to diffuse or work through the distressed behaviours being displayed. The four styles identified by Bowlby are secure, anxious-ambivalent, disorganised, and avoidant. The training provides strategies to help individuals who display these attachment styles.
The aim is to address the emotions and behaviours first and then to implement the support. In time, you will see the distressed behaviours decrease and eventually start seeing the child engage in their learning. If the emotional needs are supported first, then learning will take place.
The strategy works when implemented one-to-one with pupils in schools where all staff are trained and committed to the process. Schools need to give the team time to put these strategies into practice and meet regularly to discuss what is working well and what requires improvement. These meetings should last up to 30 minutes, with clear notes of agreed actions to be completed for the next meeting. This structure works well as this meant we didn't run out of time or go over the same information with no solutions in place.
Not only did this affective practice work well for pupils and staff, but it also ensured consistent communication. Staff also felt it gave them time to go home, knowing everything we could do to support these children was in place. We remembered that every day was a fresh start, and we encouraged each child to reach their full potential.
Things to remember
You are human beings, and all you can do is your best. So don't feel defeated if you fall at the first hurdle. If the actions you agree to in a meeting are only successful after a period of time. Children with Attachment & Trauma need to feel heard and be reassured but also know the key, consistent boundaries in place to build trust.
It is essential to ensure the staff have time to implement these strategies and practices. Therefore, schools must consider daily workloads and responsibilities so staff are not overwhelmed and feel confident they can prioritise the work they already have.
Lastly, early intervention is important for a child's development into adulthood, so start trialing strategies and practices now! Patience and consistent practice take time, but the results will be worth it. Remember, the support may take time to produce results; it can show later throughout their educational journey.