Attachment and trauma

Becoming an attachment and trauma aware education setting (ATAES)

Attachment aware schools

An attachment aware school is one where the staff understand the neuroscience behind attachment and trauma that stops vulnerable children from accessing learning. They can then draw on this knowledge to:

  • develop the school ethos and culture
  • develop classroom teaching and behaviour management strategies to enable vulnerable or disengaged pupils to make progress
  • build effective relationships with parents, carers and other agencies
  • support effective transitions for vulnerable pupils or those at risk of becoming disengaged
ATAES programme

All Hampshire educational settings can participate in our ATAES programme, which is based on the national model for attachment friendly schools. This follows the principles that settings:

  • are child-centred
  • acknowledge different attachment styles and their implications
  • create nurturing relationships that improve children’s learning and behaviour and satisfy a child's innate need for a sense of belonging and safety
  • acknowledge adults' roles as secondary attachment figures that can reshape insecure attachment behaviours and support the development of secure behaviours
  • create appropriate nurturing infrastructures for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties
  • utilise whole school strategies that avoid the dangers of stigmatising individuals, such as looked-after children

Please contact the Virtual School direct for details of our current programmes.

What the programme involves

The ATAES programme is a 12 month project with a formal evaluation at the end. The programme is run by Hampshire County Council and Kate Cairns Associates (KCA).

During the programme, settings will:

  • develop their own work throughout the project
  • receive support to enable them to achieve their goals
  • receive bespoke training, with access to online resources and a mentor
  • share their experiences and practices with other settings

Each setting will need to identify two members of staff to attend:

  • 3 formal training days
  • 3 local ATAES network meetings

For secondary schools, the members of staff must include:

  • a senior member of staff
  • the designated teacher or head of department

For primary schools, the members of staff must include:

  • a senior member of staff
  • a classroom teacher or curriculum area lead

Why you should get involved

In 2015 it became a national recommendation that schools and staff become more aware of attachment and trauma. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines state:

Schools and other education providers should ensure that all staff who may come into contact with children and young people with attachment difficulties receive appropriate training on attachment difficulties.

The National College for School Leadership (NCSL) is working with Bath and North East Somerset to develop training for school leaders.

For more information, see the Bath Spa attachment aware schools website.

Schools without looked-after children

Even if your school does not have looked-after children, attachment awareness can still benefit the school. You will be better prepared to identify vulnerable children and risk factors. Insecure attachments can also occur with non-vulnerable children.

For more information, see the NICE guidance: Attachment in children and young people who are adopted from care, in care or at high risk of going into care.

Educational outcomes

At the end of the 12 month programme, settings submit an evaluation of the impact of the work on the school, staff and pupils. We collate these evaluations into an annual report.

The National Evaluation Report is available on the Attachment aware schools website.

ATAES resources