TRAUMA & Schools

Recent studies estimate two-thirds of students have experienced a traumatic event before the age of 16, while new research suggests that as many as 13 out of 30 students in an average classroom will have toxic stress from three or more traumatic experiences.

Childhood trauma and toxic stress are recognised as the world’s leading health epidemic and only recently have its consequences and remedies started trickling down to education policy and practice.

Trauma can be measured by “adverse childhood experiences”, or ACEs, which describe all types of abuse, neglect, and other traumatic experiences that happen to individuals under the age of 18.

There are events that we can generally expect are likely to produce a traumatic response in children; including natural disasters, grief and loss, life-threatening medical emergencies, or car accidents.

But complex trauma is much more damaging, as is chronic trauma because it happens repeatedly the impact on developing brains is so much more significant because we know how brains respond to repeated experiences. 

Repeated experiences of fear and danger and hurt and isolation force the brain into survival mode and it takes the activity out of the learning parts of the brain, that frontal lobe.

Students exposed to three or more ACEs are:

  • three times more likely to fail
  • four times more likely to have poor health
  • five times more likely to have severe attendance problems
  • six times more likely to have severe behaviour problems
  • almost six times more likely to have at least one physical, at least one mental and at least one developmental condition.

In the longer term, childhood trauma has been strongly linked to a number of health and social problems including substance abuse, incarceration, chronic disease, and early death.

Early intervention changing the way schools respond to and support trauma-affected children offers an opportunity to improve outcomes for many in society.

For teachers, studies show they do not feel adequately equipped with the knowledge and skills required to support the needs of students with challenging behaviours, and some strategies such as timeouts and exclusions exacerbate trauma-related behaviours.

There is a need to not only train teachers how to address the needs of students with trauma but also build the capacity of schools as a whole to support these students. 

Settings that have implemented trauma-informed educational practices are reporting significant improvements in student social, behavioural and academic outcomes.



How Childhood Trauma affects health

TRAUMA Support & Information

How Trauma Affects Kids in School

Ongoing exposure to neglect, abuse, homelessness or violence causes learning and behavior problems in children. Signs of trauma and tips for helping kids who've been traumatized.

Trauma Informed Schools

A trauma informed school is one that is able to support children and teenagers who suffer with trauma or mental health problems and whose troubled behaviour acts as a barrier to learning. Our training programmes were born out of a response to major public health studies that have shown that when children who have suffered several painful life experiences, are unhelped, there is a very high chance of them going on to suffer severe mental and physical ill-health. We therefore support schools, communities and other organisations in providing relationships for these children that heal minds, brains and bodies. 

Trauma Aware Schools

Traumatic stress can arise from a variety of sources: bullying at school, dramatic weather events, school shootings — even the day-to-day exposure to events such as divorce or homelessness. Children and adults can be affected by traumatic stress. Having the tools to manage traumatic stress empowers the members of the school community.

Child Trauma Recovery

If your child or teen has had an accident or other trauma you are probably wondering how you can help them recover. This website aims to provide parents and caregivers with help, advice and reassurance after their child has experienced a frightening or traumatic event.

It will help you:

  • Understand more about how your child or teen may react
  • Discover how to help your child—and yourself—cope
  • Find out what treatment services are available
  • Learn what other resources may help support your child

Beacon House Resources

Beacon House is a team of professional, warm and highly experienced chartered psychologists, psychotherapists and occupational therapists. We provide a wide range of mental health assessments and effective therapies for children and young people, families and adults who are experiencing mental health difficulties, emotional and behavioural problems and relationship conflict. As a service we have a special interest in repairing the effects of trauma and attachment disruption.

Creating Trauma-Informed Schools

Exposure to traumatic events in childhood and adolescence can have lasting negative social, emotional, and educational effects. For schools, or any environment that serves children, to be truly trauma-informed, they must address three crucial areas: safety, connection, and emotional and behavioral regulation. Chapter 4 explores these three areas as the foundational pillars of a trauma-informed structure. Each area is explored, along with examples of how they can be created in a school environment. Concrete examples of safe behavior are provided, as are examples of classroom triggers and guidance for helping children regulate emotions in the classroom. Finally, key information on identifying early risk factors for bullying behavior is included.