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Children’s charity urges schools to train teachers on how to support survivors of early trauma

child with teddy bear

A children’s charity is calling for teachers to receive training on how to support pupils that have undergone childhood abuse.


An online survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of Barnardo’s Scotland, found that 54 per cent of the teachers that participated had not received any training on the impact of a child’s early traumatic experience.


As schools across Scotland prepare to resume next week, the charity warns that the bearing of early trauma and hardship on a child “can be severe and enduring.”


Experts at the charity are now urging schools to act fast, in order to better identify and respond to signs of “early trauma and adversity.”

Speaking on the impact of trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE), the charity said: “Whether this is parental divorce or imprisonment, substance misuse, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, bereavement or loss. These early experiences can have a huge impact on a child’s development, their ability to learn and their mental health and well-being.”

The charity also highlighted that teachers are quick to misread behaviours associated with early trauma, and rather than providing support it is often dealt with discipline. Due to this, the charity advises that trauma-informed approaches should be of focus in all work with children and young people, instead of just “reserved for specialist or targeted services.”


Barnardo’s Assistant Director Laura Falconer, who specialises in mental health and wellbeing, said: “It is crucial that schools create an environment where all staff know how to support and respond to children affected by early trauma; where children are taught to develop skills they need to understand and cope with their experience, and where staff feel confident linking in with additional support if needed.”

She added: “Teaching children from an early age about emotional awareness, how to self-regulate, and the skills to support resilience are essential parts of preventing future problems with their mental health and well-being.”


The online survey also revealed that 87 per cent of teachers who had received trauma and ACEs training, found the process useful.

A teacher/participant of the poll said: “I am more aware of the difficulties that ACEs can lead to and I now try to establish more background information on a child when considering why and how they behave in certain ways, this also applies to the families.”

Headteacher at St Francis Primary School in Edinburgh, Margot MacAlister, said: “I make it a priority to ensure my staff have access to a programme of professional development and training that gives them a set of skills to identify and support behaviours as a result of early childhood trauma.”

She added: “It is essential we continue to set up systems of support and training for professionals working with children and young people to ensure we continue to make a difference to the future wellbeing of society.”


Earlier this year, the Scottish government vowed to fund a National Trauma Training Programme that aims to help those suffering from childhood abuse.

Barnardo’s Scotland said that whilst the charity is in favour of the government’s commitment to this scheme, however it stresses that national priorities such as “closing the poverty related attainment gap and improving children and young people’s mental health” must “have a core focus on the impact of early and developmental trauma on a child’s ability to learn and thrive.”

August 15, 2018