An Attachment aware schools programme: a safe space, a nurturing learning community

Kelly, Paul, Watt, Lizzie and Giddens, Sara orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-0680-2189 (2020) An Attachment aware schools programme: a safe space, a nurturing learning community. Pastoral Care In Education, 38 (4). pp. 335-354. ISSN 0264-3944

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There is a growing expectation that schools have a good understanding of attachment theory and its implications in practice, in order to meet the needs of Looked After Children, and other vulnerable learners. Derbyshire County Council’s Attachment Aware Schools programme, now in its fifth year, is meeting this need by providing a substantial school development programme which has led to innovative and sustainable ways of developing school practice.

This programme has involved a comprehensive range of bespoke long-term development work with 77 schools to date, through a dynamic interaction of training, action research and reflective practice to promote safe, nurturing and effective learning environments. The programme, underpinned by attachment theory, has led to schools throughout the county becoming communities of inquiry and hubs of excellence, through a process of practice-as-research, where the cyclical nature of action research enhances the complementary relationship of theory and practice.

Evaluation of the programme has shown that all participating schools have effected ethos change, and developed better informed pedagogical practice, to support Looked After Children, and other vulnerable learners. This article explores how building attachment awareness in schools, with a focus on relationship-building and a better understanding of teacher–pupil interaction, can contribute meaningfully to whole school development.

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