What was your school like before relational practice?

Management and responsive of behaviour was punitive. We had a number of children absconding on a frequent basis, partly as a response to how boundaries, rules, expectations were delivered.

Up to 30 children a term were in need of wave 3 Nurture provision beyond the classroom. Upwards of 30 exclusions per year. Several referrals for children to AP per year.

Serious incidents of behaviours that challenge – previously recorded as Red Behaviour:

Majority of staff had fractured relationships with the children who needed the strong connections the most.

Level of interventions required for SEMH was not sustainable or effective.

School was fragmented and disconnected from the community it served. Relationships with parents/carers were fractured and a lot of things were done ‘to’ them and their children.

Staff were stressed, helpless and constantly felt inadequate with their management of behaviour.

In school, in addition to whole school Nurture practice, we have Thrive, Psychotherapy, CBT, Therapy dog, Drawing and Talking Art therapy, Emotional Health coaches x2 and a resilience and relationship coach.

What triggered the change?

Change in SLT and Inclusion team.

Further development of new Social Inclusion lead with links and support from Joe Brummer, Bruce Perry and studying Paul Dix brought about new perspective on whole school development. Opportunities to network with schools who had implemented relational approach over many years and too observe the impact.

Staff developing a deeper understanding of neuroscience, resilience and trauma. Integration of therapeutic provision and success enabled staff to conclude managing behaviour with punitive measures was not safe, helpful or successful. Moving away from 1 year action plan to a 3 year action plan facilitated space to change hearts and minds, whilst embedding the practice along the way.

What were the expectations/hopes?

  • For the work of the Nurture team to be integrated into the whole school.
  • For punitive sanctions and tiered reward system to be replaced with more relational interventions that supported strong connections no matter what the antecedent.
  • For the school to have a sense of joy, happiness, buzz and purpose for the community.
  • For staff to feel empowered and supported when managing relationships.
  • To reduce the need of intense Nurture or Therapy provision.
  • To eliminate the need for exclusions.
  • To increase attendance and engagement with education.
  • To increase parental engagement.

What happened – what have you done, how did it pan out?

2016 new Social Inclusion lead was appointed.

2016 Developed Nurture Provision and Social Inclusion team.

2017 Integration of 6 principles of Nurture Whole school.

Summer term of 2018 Inclusion staff started consultations with Joe Brummer, Paul Dix book study groups with Inclusion team.

Autumn 2019 Developed 3 year plan with support from Joe Brummer.

2020 Spring term, Inclusion team, further training with Beacon House on development trauma and Bruce Perry – Neurosequential model of therapeutics.

September 3rd 2021 – Linking neuroscience, school values, mission statements to the way which we interact with challenging behaviour. Developing respect agreements in class to get understanding of culture shared vision of values within the class and school.

Introduction of Zones of regulation

Introduction of When the Adults Change + working groups on specific chapters

Working groups feed into policy development

January 2021 – Consultation with Joe Brummer around building restorative and relational school. Key message, can’t repair relationship that wasn’t there in the first place. School implemented key non-negotiable relational interactions (eg, meet and greets, endings – how we end the day with kids,

February 2021 – Consultation with Joe Brummer – support with developing 3 year plan. Policy writing fed into by the working groups

April 2021 – Whole school inset. Priorities 1 & 2 –

  1. Shift in punitive lens to restorative and trauma aware.
  2. Deeper understanding of stress response system and integrating the learning to intervening with challenging behaviour.
  3. Adult consistencies (Paul Dix)

September 2022 Paul Dix relational practice

September 2022 Co-developed new behaviour blueprint with teaching staff and support staff

January 2023 Introduction to 5 foundations of effective attendance (Wayne Harris) – whole school shift to improving culture and sense of belonging with aim to increase attendance.

What was easy, what was hard?

Due to support of Headteacher and governing body, use of resources, time for CPD and monitoring, autonomy to influence systemic change was all accessible to Inclusion leaders.

Getting staff to follow a structure to ‘action research’ with use of Paul’s book was difficult; but once we were past the first 2 chapters and staff started to visible feel and see change, changing hearts and minds was easier. Pulling away from punitive measures with limited frameworks for staff to hang consequences on, was difficult and slightly chaotic, however, using our values as a guide made the stormy periods easier to manage.

Getting wider staff group, other than teachers, on board was a challenge due to the limited CPD time within their timetables. That and their nature to continually develop as a professional needed some work.

Getting parental engagement on with regards to responding to incident with a restorative and relational focus. Supporting parents align their parenting to relational connections.

Where are you now?

All staff have a deep understanding of the significance of strong, healthy and stable relationships with parents and carers. They have a trauma informed and relational framework to call upon when things go wrong.

There is a strong Inclusion team who support the school uphold their values and connections. Staff understand that some students need additional relational dosing.

There is a clear, simple and consistent expectation on adult behaviour for how to develop, build and maintain relationships with our school community. Recognition is used as a strategy to uphold all expectations in school. Beyond our children recognition systems, recognition for staff to parents, parents to staff, staff to staff and children to staff is established and embedded in our culture.

Exclusions are eliminated.

What advice would they give to others?

Work from a 3-year plan. Introduce concepts slowly with staff ability to trial and experiment with new strategies. Use their input in policy development.

Clear communication strategy with children.

Ensure there is an internal infrastructure to sustain relational and restorative practice. Consider succession planning to future-proof the practice and culture of the school.