Why Does Attachment Matter in Schools

Attachment is a relational bond. This bond is intended to serve two functions; a protective function and an exploratory function.

The protective function is intended to keep the small, weak, defenceless, vulnerable close to a grown up using proximity seeking behaviours.

The exploratory function is intended to allow the other to serve as a safe base from which to go off and explore.

Adult comforting adolescent

It was intended that babies, toddlers and children use their parents/carers in this way. However some have experienced toxic stress, some since pregnancy. Toxic stress can interfere with this bonding experience.

Children lay down templates for how they then go on to relate to other grown ups from their early experiences. They can transfer this internal working model onto us the education staff working in schools and this can seriously impede the capacities of these children being in a position to ‘settle to learn’.

They can end up being so preoccupied with assessing threat around the grown ups and using their learned defences that they miss most of the content of what is being taught!

However, this attachment template is not set in stone. Brains are experience dependent. Every relationship has the power to confirm or challenge all that’s gone on before. We are encouraging schools to invest their resources – however scarce into people.

A lot of what these children need to learn cannot be learned by completing a worksheet or working through a computer program.

They need relational experience, preferably with a grown up as this is where the disruption occurred.

It makes sense that if you have been wounded within relationship that relationships will need to be the vehicle back towards adaption and recovery. At the heart of all attachment difficulties is a distrust of others’ intentions and motives.

Can you imagine what might be possible if these pupils had someone alongside to patiently provide nurture and gentle challenge? Maybe their perceptions could be changed – for life.

Humans are evidence seeking creatures.

  • Let’s provide the relational evidence needed through over compensatory care in the school context.
  • Let’s provide opportunities for second chance learning by being physically and emotionally present, attentive, attuned and responsive.
  • Let’s become additional attachment figures – Key adults to these pupils.

Make The Most Important Decision!

Children spend many hours, days, weeks, months, terms and years with us in school.

What a difference we could make!

Relationships matter and we are determined to get relationships very much back on the map in our schools all over the UK!

For too long we have neglected the very tool that is the most powerful of all for change– ourselves!

If we invest into relationships we won’t need to spend so much time preoccupied by those GCSE targets and league tables! We will be freed up to invest our time into teaching.

We can make a difference.

However, we are going to have to shift our perspective by updating our thinking around child development by examining the facts that neuroscience now provides.

A final note from one of course attendees that really shows how vital it is for local authorities to have Attachment Leads embedded in their schools.



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