Trauma and Mental Health Informed School
Trauma and Mental Health Informed School
At St Dennis Primary Academy ‘Everyone matters, everyone succeeds and every moment counts’. Central to this provision is an incredibly positive ethos of high expectations and respect for one another. We pride ourselves on our caring, nurturing and engaging environment, in which every child can thrive, feel safe and achieve. We believe that through identifying the barriers to learning, providing an exciting, creative and relevant curriculum that considers the whole child, providing the necessary support for children to achieve and develop, and forming positive relationships, all children will reach their true potential.
We are committed to ensuring that our school develops a Trauma and Mental Health Informed Approach to ensure that all our children develop positive mental health and resilience, enabling them to fully engage in life and learning. There is a growing body of research and understanding of the impact of Childhood Adversity on long term mental and physical health and the protective factors that minimise the potential impact. It is our aim to maximise the protective factors of school by creating an environment of safety that has strong, positive, supportive relationships at its heart.
One of the Key Drivers for our curriculum is Wellbeing - Children being physically and mentally healthy so they have the strength to be successful and happy, is a key element in our curriculum intent. We aim to ensure that children have the knowledge, understanding, skills and confidence to make healthy decisions and choices in the future, as throughout their lives our children may face difficult challenges.
Whole School Approach
We have embraced a wider definition of trauma to encompass any event that is experienced as frightening, painful or out of control, characterised by there being no one available to support or mitigate the impact of traumatic toxic stress. As such, even the day-to-day exposure to events such as divorce, loss of a loved one, illness within the family, preparing for an exam, moving house can be experienced as traumatic. Children and adults can be affected by toxic stress. Providing an environment that has safety, connection and compassion at its heart ensures that we never unwittingly re-traumatise any of our community members and act to maximise protective factors through the conscious use of our relationships.
All adults in our school are aware of how to create an ethos and environment of both physical and psychological safety and have the skills to respond to those who have been impacted by traumatic stress. We fully understand and support the impact that connection with a trusted, emotionally available adult has on a child and seek to maximise this for those in our care who are identified as requiring additional support.
All our staff have undertaken whole school training, provided by Trauma and Mental Health Informed Schools UK so that every adult has the skills and understanding to respond appropriately to the relational needs our children may display. Our behaviour and relationship policies reflect a trauma informed approach and our rewards and sanctions are both developmentally and trauma- informed. We do not operate a ‘zero tolerance’ or ‘one size fits all’ approach to distressed behaviour, however, we have high expectations of behaviour for all and rigorous support is offered to those having difficulty meeting our expectations.
Zones of Regulation
Every classroom has a 'Zones of Regulation' board. This is an interactive display that all children are encouraged to use when they arrive at school and after lunch, but also throughout the day, to help them identify how they are feeling and their level of alertness. Staff also use this to check in with those that need it. The children can then access ideas and resources to help them regulate their emotions, or this may be supported by an adult. This helps to embed our ethos that all feelings are ok but it is how we deal with them that matters. The goal is to help children understand their body's signals, identify their triggers and learn the best strategies to help themselves self-regulate, so that they are ready to learn. Alongside this, classrooms have an area that children can use to access self-regulation techniques.
At St Dennis we are fortunate to have 'The Snug'. This room is available for any child to use as a safe space to be, to talk or to play. It is used for our TIS sessions, sensory breaks, social and emotional interventions, as well as special rewards! In The Snug we have sensory resources, such as weighted blankets, kinetic sand, sand play, musical instruments, aromatherapy diffuser, snuggly rugs, a dark den, a range of lights, body socks, liquid timers, bean bags, sequin boards, bubble fish tube... to name a few! Most of the resources for this room were purchased thanks to a grant from St Dennis Educational Trust.
Brain Gym and Breathing Techniques
All of our classes use brain gym and breathing techniques every day. Brain gym activities provide a movement break for all of our children, they help us to calm and connect the right and left brain, so that we feel ready to learn! We are currently exploring different ideas from Cosmic Kids to see which ones have the most impact and which ones we like best!
Breathing techniques are another way for us to calm down our breathing and ensure we are in the 'green zone' and ready to learn. We learn all sorts of techniques such as take five, whale breath, rainbow breath, chocolate cake and lots more. We like to use Go Noodle for breathing and brain gym activities.
Click the logos to try them out at home too!
We have trained Trauma and Mental Health Informed Practitioners to work with children who are identified as requiring additional support. This support may be offered in 1:1 sessions, in class or in small groups.
Children are identified for additional support through a number of methods. We universally screen our children using The Boxall Profile to assess their social, emotional and behavioural development. This is completed by staff who know the children well. Children do not always present through their outward behaviour when life is becoming difficult for them, so our Boxall Profile assessments ensure that children are identified early and nobody is missed.
From these assessments, we can identify areas to work on with a whole class, groups or individuals. Individuals that need a greater level of support will have an Individual Support Plan written for them using the targets identified by their Boxall Profile assessment. This also highlights key strategies, interventions and resources to use. All children are reassessed so we can track progress.
Children may also be highlighted through a significant change in their behaviour in school or through a parental concern when behaviour changes at home or a significant life event impacts the family.
Our aim is to support children to make sense of their experience, find ways to manage their emotions and feelings and ensure that they maintain the capacity to learn, despite difficult events that may happen.
As a school we are also fortunate enough to have access to The Mental Health Support Team (MHST).
This is an NHS service which works within school settings to provide early intervention for primary school children who are experiencing difficulties such as low mood and anxiety. They also support education staff in implementing strategies across the whole school to try to ensure that children's wellbeing is supported and promoted throughout school life. As part of this we have our own Education Mental Health Practitioner to whom we can refer children.
We believe that our parents know their children best and we are committed to working in partnership to identify the best ways of providing support for children within school. We aim to develop positive, non-judgemental working partnerships with all our parents.
As you can see, we have a wide range of support available to meet the mental health and wellbeing needs of our children. Miss Stokes has recently completed Mental Health Lead training as part of a government initiative. As part of this we will be enhancing our practice, including creating our own internal referral process so it is clear which type of support or referral is best for each individual child.
Our Trauma Informed approach applies to all of our members - children, adults and parents alike. Our aim is always to PROTECT our school community members and reduce their levels of toxic stress at the earliest indication, offering support and skill development, with the adults they know best, in a place they feel both safe and supported, within their community.
If you have any questions, please contact Miss Stokes (Mental Health Lead) or Mrs Waters (Trauma and Mental Health Informed Schools Lead Practitioner).
You can read our Relationship Policy here
Further support for Mental Health
(click the logo to go directly to their website)
Headstart Kernow's aim is building resilience and mental wellbeing for children and young people. They have support and advice for parents and carers too.
Call our Parents Helpline for detailed advice, emotional support and signposting about a child or young person up to the age of 25. Call us for free on 0808 802 5544 from 9:30am - 4pm, Mon - Fri.
Our use our webchat or email service.
The Anna Freud website has advice and guidance for parents and carers to help them support a child or young person experiencing poor mental health or wellbeing.
The Cornwall Council website also lists a whole range of local and national support for parents, carers, young people and children.
Multi Agency Referral Unit (MARU)
For immediate concerns, or if you are worried about a child or young person's safety
Tel: 0300 123 1116