Attachment Aware Schools

NYC Virtual School is a member of the Attachment Research Community 

NYC Attachment & Trauma Aware Schools Project 2017-Present: Developing Trauma Sensitive Practice, funded through the Virtual School.

Virtual School Senior Practitioner Educational Psychologist

The Virtual School has an attached Senior Practitioner Educational Psychologist. The Educational Psychologist works on casework with the team, Supervision, training and is also responsible for devising, delivering and evaluating the NYC Attachment/Trauma aware evidence based programme which is also linked with the Oxford University Timpson Project. The Virtual School Educational Psychologist also works in partnership with other teams such as the PIPA team/Social Care and has delivered training and phone line support for Foster Parents/Social Workers during Covid 19.

The Virtual School Attachment/Trauma Aware Project

The Virtual School funds an evidence based project working with schools to develop their attachment aware, trauma sensitive relational practice. This was devised and is delivered by the Virtual School Senior Practitioner Educational Psychologists. The following information outlines the project and how to access further information.

Impact of Adverse Childhood experiences

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), such as trauma and loss can negatively impact on children/young people’s emotional regulation, ability to form social relationships and make good academic progress. Children in the Care of the Local Authority and Children in Need have a higher incidence of Adverse Childhood Experiences. They have a higher incidence of relational and developmental trauma having often lived through a matrix of multiple overlapping and co-occurring traumas, losses and stressors. These difficulties can be improved over time with the right type of environmental support/interactions over time.

Early Intervention

The Virtual School Attachment/Trauma informed project is a whole school approach which offers a range of measures to increase whole school capacity to support young people who may have adverse childhood experiences.
“An attachment-informed & trauma sensitive approach for professionals working with Children and Young People, offers the best prospect for effective early intervention for children, whatever their age or family situation” (Final report Sebba, J., et. al., 2020). 

Relational Practice

“Young people will remember you, not the system.” (Luke Rogers, 2020 ‘What is it like to be a child in care?’ Seminar August 2020)

Connectedness is a biological imperative (Stephen Porges, Trauma Summit, 2020). A Positive relational approach is at the heart of this approach. Positive relational approaches are advocated at systems and individual level in order to build ‘felt’ safety (Porges, 2020, Dana,D., 2018), belonging (Roffey,2011) well-being and to enable the social engagement system to come ‘on line’ for learning. Evidence based relational approaches are included to support this development which can also link with/support other relational approaches used in schools such as Restorative Practice. In training, links are made with the evidence base, neuroscience and interactional practice. 

Current School Involvement

53 schools are involved the project with 28 having completed the programme. This includes 33 primaries, 13 secondary, 3 special schools and 3 Pupil Referral Units and the NYC Virtual School. 

Criteria for Involvement

Schools must have one NYC LAC on roll and agree to take part in the action research to embed practice as a condition of receiving the free Virtual School training. If interested, please contact your Virtual School member of staff or

Early Evidence from the on-going NYC Action Research 2020

What is involved in the Project?

A whole school approach is important because creating an inclusive and positive school ethos around behaviour is something that must be driven by the Headteacher and school’s Senior Leadership Team in order to be endorsed by, and embedded across, the whole school community (Brighton and Hove,2018).  

  • On successful completion of the project, schools are awarded a certificate giving ‘North Yorkshire Attachment Aware’ Status. From September 2020 schools can join the new NYC Emotion Coaching Attachment aware interest group to share best practice.

Please see our introduction to the project here.

Relational Behaviour Policy

Schools are also encouraged to consider development of Relational Behaviour Policies and Practice

Please find links to Relational Behaviour Policies below, while remembering that these are always a work in progress.

Early Evidence from the on-going NYC Action Research 2020

Attachment Trauma Recovery Training (ATR)

  • 96.01% agreement that the Attachment, Trauma and Recovery (ATR) training had developed their understanding about early developmental trauma.
  • 91.86% agreement that the Attachment, Trauma and Recovery training had developed their understanding about how to support children and young people with these difficulties. 
  • “This is a must for all schools…this has been the best training I have ever had and has been very valuable”. 
  • “It made me more aware of why behaviour is different in different children and the massive impact of attachment”

Emotion Coaching Training

  • 94% agreement that the training session raised their understanding and knowledge of Emotion Coaching. 

Emotion Coaching Champion Action Research 

Quantitative data showed statistical significance was reached regarding positive impact on:

  • Staff self-awareness and management of adult emotion 
  • Development of child self-regulation / coping strategies and improved relationship
  • Adult confidence in using the approach

 “I am more aware of my emotions when dealing with incidents. I’m more empathetic with children’s emotions.”

Circle of Adults Action Research

Qualitative and quantitative evidence from Circle of Adults Action Research was highly effective at helping staff to understand individual children’s experiences and understanding some of the psychological drives behind complex behaviours.  

  • “The process gave us the chance to reflect & clarify our understanding” “The discussion opens up ideas.”
  • “The circle of adults has provided a structured method for investigating complex situations. This has enable me, and colleagues in school, to think carefully about a student’s life experiences and relate them to the behaviours they exhibit, leading to more focused approaches to the student that address the emotional needs rather than the behaviour”.

Five NYC Schools are now part of the Oxford University Reece Centre Attachment “Timpson Project”. 

  • Mowbray School was nominated by the Virtual School Educational Psychologist for best practice in the area of Attachment and Trauma in the PRU & Alternative Provision category. They won this award in November 2019 and were presented their award by Sir John Timpson. In July 2020 Mowbray school and the Virtual School Educational Psychologist rolled out best practice training for interested schools.
  • September 17th 2020 the first Emotion Coaching Attachment / Trauma interest group took place. If interested, please contact 
  • NYCC Virtual School continues to host a North East Interest group meeting for Emotion Coaching UK & continues to contribute to their website / research. We have welcomed National Lead Louise Gilbert on three occasions and the responses from schools was very positive. 

Useful resources

•    ACEs Online Learning
•    Attachment Aware Schools
•    Inner World Work
•    Academic Resilience (Young Minds)
•    Wellbeing tool-kit for schools (CORC UK)
•    A toolkit for schools and colleges (Anna Freud Centre)
•    Resources to support trauma (Safe Hands Thinking Minds)
•    Place 2 be's Support for Schools
•    Child Trauma
•    PAC-UK
•    Fab Parents
•    The Anna Freud Centre
•    Young Minds