Supporting a trauma-informed approach in schools

In this month's Khulisa Focus column, we introduce our brand new trauma training model for professionals and reflect on one of our first training sessions for Special Educational Needs Coordinators (SENCO) in Hackney.

Khulisa's ‘Trauma-informed’ training for sector professionals

Over the years we’ve learnt that to sustain the positive impact of our programmes which work directly with young people, it’s imperative that the environment in which they are learning is also trauma-sensitive and developmentally-informed. This means that teachers need to understand how grief and trauma impact the body and brain, as well as how this affects early childhood development and presents itself as behaviour. We believe that there are also systemic changes required in school to help traumatised young people to remain in education and gain the necessary social and emotional skills that will set them up for life.

We have developed a model of working with young people that can be shared more widely with sector professionals; to help teachers, SENCO’s, foster carers, social workers, youth workers and all those working with young people at risk.

We now run half-day, 1 and 2 day interventions training sessions for groups of 12-16 sector professionals, enabling them to look beneath presenting behaviour and understand what’s going on in a young person’s brain and body; as well as understanding how to respond effectively.

Using practical and creative techniques, we explore the what and how of being trauma-informed, as well as providing tried and tested tools and techniques that can be immediately incorporated into day-to-day practice.

Participants leave knowing how to better respond to those in their care as well as to attend to their own self-care (avoiding toxic stress and compassion fatigue) and consider the systemic impact trauma can have on organisations and communities.

Case Study: Training for Special Educational Needs Coordinators

In November 2018, Khulisa were commissioned by the Hackney Learning Trust to run a 1-hour keynote session together with 2 workshop sessions at the Hackney SENCO conference, for over 40 SENCO’s in primary and secondary education.

The main focus of these sessions was to share the merits of creating a trauma-informed environment in schools. A trauma-informed environment in school means that staff and professionals understand how experiences of trauma can present irregularities in a child’s behaviour (e.g. thought processes, body sensations).  This approach ensures the school can respond safely to young people who have experienced adverse childhood experiences (ACE’s); and our training in this area is a result of our 20+ years, working with traumatised young people in schools, PRU’s and prisons.  

During our key-note we were able to provide an overview of the theoretical concepts that underpin our way of working with young people, as well as to explain in practical terms, how this positively impacts them and positively influences the school environment. Our methodology is based on extensively researched international evidence as well as our own internal experience of what works to help children develop emotional literacy, resilience and personal agency.  Our workshops at this event encouraged participants to have fun and interact, utilising the kinds of creative activities we run with young people, as well as explaining how these methods help teachers and encourage young people to co-manage challenging behaviour. 

Commenting after receiving feedback from attendees at the event, Senior Educational Psychologist, Dr Ed Chilton, said,

"A big thank you for yesterday. The feedback was unanimously positive and your input left everyone feeling inspired and excited to try out new approaches and ideas."

Feedback from Delegates

Feedback from the event confirms that individuals have been able to successfully apply what they learnt in their roles day to day. We’ve also been approached by a number of schools in Hackney to discuss how we might help their organisation respond to the complex needs of their young people.


  • 92% of participants said that they were likely to alter their day to day practice based on the course content
  • 98% of participants said that the course content was excellent with the remaining 2% calling it satisfactory
  • "I really enjoyed the whole day, and it has given me tools to support some of our most vulnerable pupils.”
  • "[The event provided] very useful ideas that are easily implementable within school”
  • “The most useful aspect …. was Khulisa’s talk linking psychology, practical tips and anecdotes."

To discuss how Khulisa’s trauma-informed approach could help support your team or organisation, please call Lisa Rowles on 07717 510525, or email

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