On 22 November 2022, The Attachment Research Community (ARC) came together with fellow colleagues, psychologists, academics and schools to educate, celebrate and bring the subject of attachment and trauma awareness to the forefront of everyone's minds. The event took place with live delegates meeting in Birmingham, while virtual delegates networked on the bespoke ARC conference platform. Their first hybrid model annual conference, "Attachment and Trauma Awareness - teaching, learning and emotional wellbeing in school", was hosted by ARC and attended by more than 600 delegates, each receiving full CPD accreditation for a day full of relational practice, knowledge and insight.
The conference began with delegates being welcomed by ARC Chair, Andrew Wright, followed by an opening message from NAVSH Chair, Julie Bunn and a message from ARC Patron, Sir John Timpson, who spoke of the importance of attachment and trauma awareness within schools;
“It makes them better schools and it's all children who gain, not just those who have attachment problems. The research that we have undertaken over the last 5 years, published this year, shows the importance of leadership in schools, the importance of training on attachment and the importance of having a whole school approach.”
The Alex Timpson Trust was represented by Professor Elizabeth Harlow, who joined the stage alongside ARC trustees to open the 2022 Alex Timpson ARC Attachment Awards; celebrating the best attachment aware and trauma informed practices that are embedded within schools across the country. The six category winners were awarded a winners trophy and a £1000 cash prize to help them continue their development. ARC Trustee, Janice Cahill OBE, commented;
“Each school nominated, demonstrated their strength of commitment and the work they are doing to ensure that their pupils, the most vulnerable pupils within their community are included. With their foresight and energy more schools will develop their Attachment and Trauma informed practice to ensure every pupil has a positive experience of school life. That seems like a win, win for everyone.”
Early years award winner, Low Hill Nursery
Primary award winner, Colmore Infant & Nursery
Secondary award winner, Tadcaster Grammar
Post 16 award winner, Burton & South Derbyshire College
Special & PRU award winner, Sherbrook Primary
Collaborative award winner, Walsall Schools Project
Joining the stage to present the first keynote was Principal of Everton Free School and Football College, Steven Baker, and Pearson Award-winning teacher of science, Mick Simpson. The collaborative keynote discussed topics around a sanction free classroom and relational practices within schools in reference to their published book, A School Without Sanctions: A New Approach to Behaviour Management. Both the live and virtual audience engaged in a Q&A session with Steven and Mick, opening up further discussions around personal experiences and the struggles faced by education professionals.
“I really enjoyed the keynote speakers in the morning. Steve and Mick were Brilliant and it just emphasised why the Thrive Approach is so impactful as their theory and knowledge is the basis of Thrive too.” ARC 2022 Conference delegate
Following a short break, Kriss Akabusi MBE was welcomed to the stage to present his personal story of growing up within the care system, following the departure of his parents from the UK, and how this impacted his life choices, from childhood struggles to finding his own inspirational adults, that led him to his success as an olympic athlete. Kriss’s powerful and personal keynote captivated the audience, with relatable and thought provoking memories that engaged the live and virtual delegates and opened the room up for discussions that continued throughout the day.
The Annual Conference included workshop sessions, provided by the 2021 Alex Timpson ARC Attachment Award winners, who exhibited their successful work, practices, knowledge and their schools embedded relational and inclusive behaviour policies that allow their young people to feel secure, enriched and enthusiastic about being at school. The workshops also included a range of presentations with updates from Helen Trivedi, The Rees Centre Oxford University, Rebecca Brooks, Adoption UK, and Louise Blackburn, Challenging Education.
ARC’s third keynote speaker, Director of Education at Berry Street, Australia, Dr Tom Brunzell, delivered an energising and inspirational keynote around transforming school culture, student engagement, trauma-informed practice, wellbeing and positive psychology.
The final keynote of the day was presented by distinguished scientist Dr Stephen Porges, streamed live from America. Dr Porges' keynote included his pioneering research in developmental psychophysiology and his ground-breaking book, ‘The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological foundations of emotions, attachment, communication, and self-regulation’, has been instrumental in transforming our understanding of trauma. This sophisticated and scholarly keynote discussed how features of intergenerational trauma can be explained through the lens of the Polyvagal Theory
The day came to a close with the annual conference panel discussion, focussing on the past 12 months and the challenges faced by both students and staff within schools and settings, discussing subjects surrounding the importance of inclusive behaviour, the extension of the Virtual School Head Teacher role and the impacts of exclusion. The panellists included The Virtual School Head Teacher for North Yorkshire County Council and current Chair of The National Association of Virtual School Heads, Julie Bunn, Professor of Education and Children’s Social Care and Director of the Rees Centre, Leon Feinstein, past president of the
Association of School and College Leaders, Pepe Di’Lasio, and former teacher and foster carer, and an adoptive parent, author and policy advisor for Adoption UK, Rebecca Brooks.
Each panellist brought their own perspective, experiences and outlooks on the significant value of embedding attachment and trauma into our school communities and gave the delegates opportunities to listen to the raw realities and experiences faced by professionals everyday.
"It made me reflect on my own practices and approach to attachment and trauma. The keynote speakers had a wealth of experience and insight which they shared very passionately. Real people, real teachers, sharing real stories. It was also reassuring that they underpinned their views, methodologies and strategies with credible scientific evidence." - 2022 Annual Conference Delegate