Understanding Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

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Episode 4 of our CPD podcast is focused on Adverse Childhood Experiences and provides an account from an SEMH Specialist and ex-Headteacher about recognising the signs and behaviours of children that have experienced ACEs. These pupils inevitably bring unique challenges to the educational environment- in navigating these challenges, the role of teaching and support staff is paramount. This blog explores the crucial responsibilities and contributions of educators and support staff in providing a safe and supportive space for children who have faced adversity.

Creating a Safe and Nurturing Environment:

The classroom should be a haven for all students, especially those with ACEs. Teaching staff play a pivotal role in establishing a safe, predictable, and nurturing environment. By fostering a sense of security, educators can help mitigate the impact of trauma and create a foundation for learning.

Understanding Trauma-Informed Practices:

Teaching staff must be equipped with an understanding of trauma-informed practices. This includes recognising signs of trauma, understanding its effects on behaviour and learning, and implementing strategies that promote emotional regulation and resilience. Professional development in this area is crucial for educators to effectively support students with ACEs.

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Building Positive Relationships:

Establishing strong, positive relationships between teaching staff and students is a cornerstone of effective support. For children with ACEs, trusting relationships with adults can be transformative. Teaching and support staff should prioritise building connections, actively listening to students, and providing consistent emotional support.

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Differentiated Instruction and Individualised Support:

Recognising that each child’s experience with trauma is unique, teaching staff should implement differentiated instruction and provide individual support. This may involve adjusting teaching methods, offering additional resources, or collaborating with special education professionals to tailor interventions to the specific needs of each student.

Collaboration with Support Services:

Support staff, including school counsellors, psychologists, and social workers, are essential allies in creating a comprehensive support system. Teaching staff should collaborate closely with these professionals to identify and address the emotional and behavioural needs of students with ACEs. Regular communication and a multidisciplinary approach can yield more effective outcomes.

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Promoting Social and Emotional Learning (SEMH):

Intentional integration of social and emotional learning into the curriculum can benefit all students, but it is particularly impactful for those with ACEs. Teaching staff can incorporate activities that promote self-awareness, emotional regulation, and interpersonal skills, fostering a positive and supportive learning environment.

Empowering Students with Coping Strategies:

Teaching staff should empower students with ACEs by teaching them effective coping strategies. This might involve providing opportunities for mindfulness activities, teaching self-regulation techniques, or collaborating with support staff to develop personalised coping plans for individual students.

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Open Communication with Parents and Caregivers:

Establishing open lines of communication with parents and caregivers is crucial in supporting children with ACEs. Teaching staff should work collaboratively with families, sharing insights on the child’s progress, and seeking input on effective strategies for support both at home and in the classroom.


Teaching and support staff play a pivotal role in shaping the educational experience for children with Adverse Childhood Experiences. By creating a safe, understanding, and individualised learning environment, educators contribute significantly to the resilience and well-being of these students. As we continue to learn more about trauma-informed practices, it is essential for educational institutions to prioritise ongoing training and professional development, ensuring that teaching and support staff are well-equipped to meet the diverse needs of all students. Through compassion, understanding, and collaboration, we can create a foundation that enables every child to thrive, regardless of their past experiences.

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