How a ‘trauma- informed approach’ can support children

exploited by gangs Comment by SUE PENNA, Co-Founder of Rock Pool CIC

‘I’m 11 – I’m scared of the community I live in – my mum and dad have five jobs between them to keep me and my two siblings in a home and fed - there is never any spare money, I feel like I don’t belong - no one ever has any time for me.” Today many children are feeling like this. Many children come from families

that are not intentionally or willfully neglecting them, they are simply doing the best they can to provide the very basics of food and shelter in a gig economy with zero-hour contracts and inadequate childcare provision. These children often lack the fundamental safe attachments that

are required for healthy development. A parent or carer provides a safe attachment. They do this by being present for the child, being consistent, setting clear boundaries, being affectionate and loving, demonstrating appropriate relationships, managing difficult emotions and by being safe emotionally. Without that secure attachment children are at risk of exploitation

and in some communities are targeted by gang leaders. Gang leaders recognise that they don’t have to work hard to persuade some children to join them and they target these vulnerable children. These are the young people who experience, what we can refer to

as, developmental trauma. Children growing up with emotionally absent parents due to drugs, alcohol or mental health problems, or parents in prison, or those who do not have enough to eat, or safe housing. Maybe there is domestic violence in the home or they have been sexually abused. These children lack basic attachments with a significant adult. They

may have an anxious attachment which means they feel chronically unsafe and scared. They appear as highly anxious, easily frightened, jumpy, watchful, restless, have poor concentration, no real friendship groups, are disorganised, flighty and never settled. They may be volatile and quick to respond with anger or tears. They may have an Avoidant attachment, these children feel deeply

unsafe and unconnected, appear as disinterested, have poor concentration, bore easily, have no strong friendship groups, have difficulty paying attention and appear isolated. Children with either of these attachments are likely to struggle at

school and face exclusion. The risk to the child is that we all need to attach for survival and those that want to exploit the child know that. What gangs offer the anxious and avoidant child is the same; an opportunity to attach to others. We have developed our Exploited Children and Gangs training as a

response to the growing need to understand what is happening to our young people and how to support them, their families and communities. We believe that we need to move away from a blame culture and understand what has happened to these young. We believe that by helping schools and parents understand the impact of trauma, and by using a trauma informed approach with communities, we can tackle the social and personal inequality that emotional trauma brings.

uFor further information about the Exploited Children and Gangs training or other trauma-informed training programmes, visit

January 2020 What’s in store for

education in 2020? Comment by JACQUELINE DANIELL, CEO of Wey Education

As a new decade approaches, education thought leaders are likely to reflect on the trends and widely shared enthusiasms that have either endured or faded. Genius hour, gamification, alternatives to letter grades and self- directed learning have all made their appearance on the education stage but it will be difficult to point to any research that provides the evidence that divides these trends into the effective versus the popular.

Every generation faces challenges and trends in education and

regardless of the origin or cause of those trends they inevitably affect more vulnerable learners. For this group in particular, the benefits of the inclusion model are well understood, yet even this established education principle is being challenged. Over the last decade we have been consistently hearing that children with special education needs (SEN) really don’t wish to be special in this way. Parents would rather them be included in a mainstream setting than see them have to deal with the challenges of others considered to have similar learning attributes. It’s a human condition to need to belong and the feeling of not belonging stems from the choices made or actions of others. However, the reality in this environment is that the challenge of budgets and deficits is likely to continue to see SEN children desert this kind of environment as the experience of inclusion fails them. In the general education classroom, trends such as growth

mindset, digital citizenship, personalised learning, brain-based learning, blended learning and immersive learning have all featured strongly in schools’ visions, missions and values with words like potential, achieve, global citizens, skills and unique, appearing frequently in statements. The growth mindset for example, where learners believe their basic abilities can be developed, is thought to create a love of learning, yet teaching practitioners can find fostering this a challenge. ‘Praising the process’, ‘setting challenging yet realistic expectations’ and ‘teaching students to manage how they talk to themselves’ can take second place to delivering the necessary curriculum content within the confines of school timetable. In terms of technology trends there can be no doubt that one of

the single biggest influences this year has been the media’s impact on students and social media interactions. Ephemeral content and live streaming are seeing extensive participation and the rise in social networks like TikTok, makes guidance on navigating platforms safely, vital and continuous. A continuing trend we’ve experienced on admission to InterHigh

School and Acdemy21 is that critical thinking skills can be underdeveloped. For example, learners are often reluctant to take any decision-making even on a small scale, from choosing a colour of a virtual notebook to more important exam subjects and university courses. We know that faculties at UK universities still struggle to encourage independent learning and that the preferred default for undergraduates is dependency on peers and staff to instruct them what to do and then seek verification. For 2020, it’s inevitable that developments and uptake of edtech

will remain a hot debate. Mental health and the quest for improving wellbeing will continue until we see real improvements in the health and happiness of our school children. Parents, children and teachers require more flexibility in their lives to enable this to happen and therefore education solutions are likely to become wider, bringing with them the need for further regulation to ensure focus remains on safety, what is being taught and what is being learnt. 21

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