Attachment and Trauma

We are part of the Attachment, Trauma and Mental Health project which is being led by the Virtual School Liverpool and the Attachment Research Community.  We were very lucky to be accepted to participate in this project as we are one of only ten schools that were selected across the city.  As part of the project two members of staff (Ms Booth and Mrs Baker O’Neill) are studying a Master’s Degree in Attachment, Trauma and Mental Health and Wellbeing for children, young people and adults.  The aim of the project is to equip school with the necessary skills to enhance the support that we offer to our children and families.   Further information will follow as our journey progresses.  Below is some information on Attachment and Trauma that you may find useful.


Attachment is a theory developed by psychologists to explain how a child interacts with the adults looking after him or her. If a child has a healthy attachment, this means the child can be confident that the adults will respond to the child’s needs, for example if they are hungry, tired or frightened, the adult caregiver will respond to meet the child’s needs or reassure and comfort them.

There are times when a carer’s ability to look after a child and respond consistently may be interrupted ie, post-natal depression, bereavement, divorce, misuse of drugs, and alcohol.  This has been noted to have potentially very serious and damaging consequences for the adult that child will become. If caregivers are seriously inconsistent or unresponsive in their behaviour to the child, the child may become very anxious as they are not able to predict how the adults around him will act; the child may even give up trying to get his needs met.

It is the role of the adult to guide the pupil in developing confidence to explore his environment and develop a good sense of self-esteem. This will help the child grow up to be a happy and functioning adult.


A traumatic event is a frightening, dangerous, or violent event that poses a threat to a child’s life or bodily integrity. Witnessing a traumatic event that threatens life or physical security of a loved one can also be traumatic. This is particularly important for young children as their sense of safety depends on the perceived safety of their attachment figures.

Traumatic experiences can initiate strong emotions and physical reactions that can persist long after the event. Children may feel terror, helplessness, or fear, as well as physiological reactions such as heart pounding, vomiting, or loss of bowel or bladder control. Children who experience an inability to protect themselves or who lacked protection from others to avoid the consequences of the traumatic experience may also feel overwhelmed by the intensity of physical and emotional responses.


Why do children become anxious?

There are a range of reasons why children and young people become anxious. In most cases, when children are extremely anxious there is a very real cause to this.  Anxiety can also have no apparent cause, but be very real in its own right, and cannot be overcome by will-power. However, attempts to get children to master their anxiety by telling them “not to be so silly” will fail. Below are a number of reasons why children and young people might become anxious.

  • A temperamental disposition. Anxiety can run in families. There is a genetic predisposition to some children being anxious.
  • Physical illness or disability
  • Family problems
  • School worries
  • Problems with friends and activities out of school.

At Gwladys Street CP & Nursery School we provide a nurturing environment where all feel safe to explore their feelings and surroundings. Staff and outside agencies work tirelessly to ensure pupils gain access to the curriculum and the wealth of expertise available to ensure their individual needs are met.


There will be times when a child will be triggered into a response and their reaction is deemed as unacceptable i.e. hitting out, running away, damaging property to name a few. However, these reactions are not intentional but a form of communication informing us their needs at that time are not being met, for example, feeling unsafe, lack of trust (relationships), separation anxiety, fear (expectations in class).  We work alongside outside agencies such as CAMHs, Occupational Therapy, Speech and language, Seedlings, MHST and Calm Central who provide individual/group interventions for pupils and support staff to ensure consistent approaches in ensuring the needs of the pupils are met.


Physical contact is imperative to a child’s emotional development and building a trusting relationship. Staff can appropriately express this through physical touch, such as hugging, a pat on the back, an arm around the shoulder, or holding an infant or toddler. Physical touch should be appropriate for the age of the child or youth. For example, while it is often appropriate to hold a toddler on your lap, it is inappropriate for an older child to sit on the lap of an adult. Pupils when dysregulated may need additional comfort or in some circumstances escorted to a safe place, all staff are trained in the use of physical intervention, Team Teach Strategies.


Pupils who have social, emotional, and mental health difficulties do not respond well to rewards and sanctions. However, we believe there are natural consequences to some unacceptable reactions displayed when a child is dysregulated.  We approach this through accepting there is a cause for the unacceptable reaction displayed and address this by keeping boundaries when ‘shining the light’ using high warmth interaction.

As a non- exclusion school, it is vital that every member of the school community feels included and supported and that each person is valued, respected and treated well.

We must be consistent in our application of keeping boundaries and promoting trusting relationships. Inconsistency is confusing to pupils and undermines the work of other staff and pupils’ confidence in our policies and procedures.

Spiritual, Moral, Social & Cultural Development

Every pupil, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, disability or SEN within Gwladys Street School has an entitlement to fulfil their potential.  To achieve this we believe the spiritual, moral, social and cultural aspect of education to be an important focus for all our pupils. SMSC plays a major part in their ability to achieve and learn and prepares them for the opportunities, responsibilities and experience of adult life.  These aspects are embraced in every aspect of school life: making sure we provide the best services for both learning progress as well as the Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural development