Bolsover School, as an ARC Timpson Award winner, have been supported by the Derbyshire Virtual School to become an ARC Learning Hub. This article provides an overview of their journey and approach.
Creating a safe place, a nurturing learning community and building ‘positive relationships’ 4 all
The vision, at Bolsover Infant and Nursery School, is of a setting that creates a safe and secure learning environment based on mutual respect and strong RELATIONSHIPS between staff, children and families, where decisions are made by focusing on the needs of children whether that be physical, emotional, mental health or academic need – Children, families and staff are their main priority. At the heart of this vision, there is a clear emphasis on Relationships. They believe with positive relationships in and out of school, they can aim to build a better future for all.
They believe education is a Journey, not a destination and on that lifelong learning Journey, each child finds their own path, a unique personalised journey which allows children/adults to develop the knowledge, skills and attributes needed to meet their full potential. To do this children will need the adults in their life to have positive relationships to ensue this journey is supported appropriately and for children to have the opportunity to get the best out of life. With this philosophy we were over the moon when in 2017 they were asked to apply to be part of Derbyshire Virtual Schools, ‘Attachment Aware Schools’ programme. They believed this programme would help them formalise their pedagogy and helps them to ensure all school policies and procedures start from an attachment aware and trauma informed basis.
The attachment aware schools programme was led by Derbyshire County Council, Virtual School, and was designed to encourage pedagogical development – trialling new ways of working with vulnerable learners led by the Virtual School. (Attachment Aware Schools programme - Derbyshire County Council). The programme itself offered 2 members of school staff a ‘train the trainer’ like approach, where they had a number of away days to experience quality training, undertake collaborative work and complete planning with their peers. Back in school, it was then their task to share the training with staff and undertake an ‘Action Research’ project, which impacted on all children, on a title of their own choosing. The projects aim was to support building attachments and support children who may have experienced trauma, struggling with relationship building and/or have attachment issues.
Through this research Bolsover developed strong practice, which soon became policy in and around school. Since then the school has gone on to develop a way of working which has seen a developing view that ‘Behaviour is as a symptom of an issue and not just a child ‘performing’. All adults began to ask ‘What is driving the behaviour?’ rather than blaming the child or family. This caused a huge shift in adult attitude and really developed a relationship led, whole school culture, the ethos of the school became consistent and strong and soon began to drive policy.
Since taking part in the programme Bolsover have gone on to work on many other Attachment Aware projects, for example, looking at the use of Transitional objects, the Power of being relationship aware in school and building Restorative Practice. They created their ‘Raising Hope’ road map through COVID and beyond, as well as our Better Bear Programme in their Early Years. Bolsover have developed strong Wellbeing practices and have completed a range of training around emotional literacy and regulation, including the use of play.
The ARC Timpson award marked a milestone in the schools journey, a point in time for us to reflect on how far we had come. Relationships had played a major part in our work through the world wide pandemic and supported our work with families. The school had built TRUST and this had supported them in implementing and delivering what our children and communities needed. Bolsover are very proud of their culture and ethos and what their school has become.
Since then Bolsover have weathered the storm of COVID and its impact on their very young children. They have used research and evidence based practice to deal with the whirlwind that has been the last two years. At times it has been tough, but out of all the work they have continued to develop practice, procedure and policy, viewing children’s behaviour as a way to communicate their needs and have met the challenges head on. As a team they have worked with parents, grandparents and carers to ensure the children in their care have a chance to mend, succeed and face adversity knowing they are not alone. They have worked with their governors to ensure they are a safe place, a port in the storm on the journey of life and they believe the children they serve are understood, supported and challenged to do better, be better, but know they are enough. They are loved, cared for and guided through life’s journey by caring professionals, supporting families in raising children with kind hearts, inquisitive minds and a thirst for life.
Bolsover are excited to see what their next chapter brings, becoming an ARC Learning hub will hopefully help the school galvanise our journey, secure our practice and help others along the way. Our aim is to ensure that every school has attachment and trauma informed practice as an anchor for policy and procedure development. That this knowledge is wide spread among professionals and impacts on all mind sets, school ethos and educational culture. That Attachment and trauma informed practice becomes the golden thread that weaves through all schools locally, across the region and into national thinking and legislation.