Attachment & Trauma

Attachment and Trauma at OLI

Our Lady Immaculate Catholic Primary School has  recently achieved The Attachment and Trauma Informed School bronze award.

The Attachment and Trauma Sensitive Schools Award  recognises the steps the have taken to develop a culture of compassion and nurture which plays a pivotal role in getting children and young people into a state of ‘learning readiness’.

The Award aims to ensure that everyone within the school has a good knowledge and awareness of the needs of children who have experienced adversity so that they can heal, thrive, play and learn. This awareness of how to support children and young people’s emotional needs and development is a key factor in promoting better learning and mental/physical health outcomes for all learners. 

 We have two lead teachers who advise all staff on attachment, offering support and advice. We also have a number of staff who offer help and support to pupils as part of the school’s mental health team. School also receives support through supervision session with a clinical psychologist, to support our journey.

At Our Lady Immaculate Catholic Primary School, we are fully committed to attachment friendly practices and work closely with a consultant to ensure we are fully reflective on our practices.

Liverpool HEARTS project

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 one of the ten schools that were selected across the city as part of the first cohort. As part of the project Mr Cotton and Mrs Bowcock are taking part in a Master’s study, accredited by Chester University 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.

What is Attachment?

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. E.g. Post-natal depression, bereavement, break-down of relationships, misuse of drugs, involvement in crime and alcohol mis-use. This has been noted to have potentially very serious and damaging consequences for the child’s development.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.

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.

What is Trauma?

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 the safety of the child or their caregiver can also be traumatic. This is particularly important for young children as their sense of safety depends on the  safety of their loved ones.

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 during a traumatic experience may also feel overwhelmed by the intensity of physical and emotional responses.

At Our Lady Immaculate Catholic Primary 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.


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 Our Lady Immaculate 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.

Why do we see dysregulation?

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 informing us that their needs at that time are not being met. We work alongside outside agencies such as CAMHs, Occupational Therapy, Speech and language, Seedlings, Mental Health Support Team , ADHD Foundation, play therapy, The Inclusive Hub and PSS (Prisoner School Services), who provide individual/group interventions for pupils and support staff to ensure consistent approaches in ensuring the needs of the pupils are met.


UNICEF: History of a logo | UNICEF

Article 39: Children who have experienced neglect, abuse, exploitation, torture or who are victims of war must receive special support to help them recover their health, dignity, self-respect and social life.



Our play curriculum

Forming relationships is a really important element to children feeling safe and happy in their environment. This year we have developed our outdoor play curriculum to ensure that children have the opportunity to engage with adults and children from across the key stage to form positive relationships. Our outdoor play curriculum has been developed to promote independence, develop speaking and listening skills, to manage risks and to develop investigation and curiosity.

Boundaries- Reflect Repair Rebuild

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 e.g of a child throws equipment on the floor the natural consequence is for them to tidy it up.

Following an incident we will  support the child in completing the Reflect, Repair, Rebuild process which enables them to make the situation better , repair friendships /relationships  and explore the strategies they can use to make better choices if they find themselves in a similar situation.  By accepting that there is a cause for the unacceptable reaction displayed we are able to support the child in resolving the problem appropriately while keeping boundaries for their behaviour.

The school uses the process of reflect, repair rebuild to implement the school code of conduct, and to ensure a safe and positive learning environment. The safety of all of our children is paramount. In order to support children with their behaviour we have developed 12 key strategies to promote consistency across the school. These strategies are proactive, responsive, verbal and non-verbal

How to support a child with Attachment difficulties

  • An open mind and an empathic approach are the essential for helping these children.
  • Accepting that the child has a need they are trying to convey, and this requires patience.
  • Having the opportunity to calm down with an adult in a safe environment (“time in” opposed to a “time out”)
  • Help the child to understand their emotions through restorative questions.
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