The government and a youth charity will spend £5.8 million on four projects to examine whether contested trauma-informed practice actually does keep children safe from violence and could lead to lower exclusions.
Trauma-informed practice involves basing interventions on an understanding that exposure to trauma can impact pupils’ development.
The approach has become more popular in schools in recent years, with its proponents arguing it changed the culture of their schools for the better.
But it has also been criticised – notably by government behaviour tsar Tom Bennett – who recently said it had “become 100 different things, justifying 100 different approaches”.
“Be very cautious about adopting this without caution,” he posted on social media.
Today, the Home Office and Youth Endowment Fund named four projects that will split £5.8 million. They said there was “currently very little robust evidence of the effectiveness of trauma-informed training and support”.
Minister hails ‘vital’ research
Policing minister Chris Philp, pictured, said the research “will be vital to gaining a better understanding of the root causes of youth violence, and will be key to helping us and the YEF support children in managing their trauma and avoiding a life of violent criminality”.
Jon Yates, a former DfE special adviser who now runs the YEF, said the training provided “could help more children to access the right support early and prevent problems later in life”.
“While the use of trauma-informed training has grown rapidly in recent years, the same can’t be said for the number of evaluations or robust studies into the practice. This funding will make great strides in changing that.”
The scheme will train teachers and other staff working with children and young people to “recognise the signs and symptoms of childhood trauma”.
They will also “gain an understanding of how trauma can influence young people’s behaviours and learn how to adapt their support accordingly”.
“Organisational policies, procedures and practices will also be adapted to ensure that all staff can respond effectively to build trusted relationships and avoid re-traumatisation for children, as well as for the staff themselves.”
The scheme aims to test whether the training can “effectively reduce the harmful effects of adverse childhood experiences – specifically, preventing behaviours that are associated with crime and violence, such as offending and behaviours which lead to exclusion from school”.
Around 200,000 children will be reached by the four projects. Delivery will be funded by £4 million from the Home Office, while the Youth Endowment Fund will spend £1.8 million on evaluation.
The four projects
Here are the names of the four projects and the description provided for each one.
Knowledge Change Action Ltd and Warren Larkin Associates
Using a whole-school approach, secondary school staff and leadership teams will be trained and supported to have a better understanding of trauma and attachment needs, including their own.
The aim is to ensure that students with adverse childhood experiences feel safe at school and have positive relationships with at least one identified staff member.
Trauma-Informed Schools UK
Through a multi-layered model of training and consultancy, secondary school staff will be supported to create a trauma-informed, mentally healthy school community that fosters psychological safety.
In addition, key staff will be trained to provide targeted interventions for individuals and groups to support trauma recovery.
Bridgend County Borough Council
Practitioners working across youth justice, edge of care, youth development and early help services will receive training and support to apply a ‘Trauma Recovery Model’ framework with the young people they are working with.
National Children’s Bureau (NCB) and Leap Confronting Conflict
Social work teams, working with young people in foster care and their foster carers, will be trained to understand and use trauma-informed practices.
The programme aims to improve the stability of foster care placements and help build trusted adult relationships.