Children’s Therapeutic Community – with a school

What is a trauma- informed approach?

The Amicus school uses a trauma-informed approach within its therapeutic model, which means the learning takes place alongside the therapeutic work of understanding trauma and its effects on our pupils. The Amicus School is registered as an independent special school and is also accredited by The Royal College of Psychiatrists as a children’s therapeutic community which recognises a trauma-informed approach in line with our therapeutic model. The children who live nearby in the Amicus Community homes attend the school and the school also accepts day pupils. The pupils at our school may have experienced trauma, have attachment disorders, and will have complex needs which our trained therapeutic education and care team will work with the children to address.

The pupils may have been excluded from mainstream schools due to their possible disruptive, disturbing, or overly withdrawn behaviour. Therefore, The Amicus School provides an alternative specialist education that is full and complete, albeit different from external or mainstream provisions. It is provided based on different needs and not lesser ones. The eventual aim of the Amicus School is to therapeutically work with the pupils to enable them to reintegrate (wherever possible) into the mainstream schooling system and to assist in their recovery from their traumatic experiences and corresponding behaviours and for this to feel more manageable.

Children’s Therapeutic Community at Amicus.

Effects of trauma on pupils

Many of the effects of trauma can affect a student’s ability to learn or have an interest in learning and these include difficulties in concentration and an inability to play or be creative. Pupils may have difficult and anti-social behaviours, and low self-esteem and sense of self-worth due to a lack of personal success or achievement in the past. Additionally, the pupils may find it hard to form trusting and appropriate adult relationships, manage their feelings, and are unable to consider the consequences of their behaviour. Therapeutically addressing and reflecting these challenges with the pupils, during the school day, is key to them progressing academically, socially, and emotionally and building increased self-esteem.

The therapeutic model is integrated into all teaching and learning
The Amicus Community’s therapeutic input follows a psychoanalytic and group theory/ relations model. This means we look deeper than the presenting behaviour and address the underlying causes, including dynamics and unconscious processes. We work on the basis that all behaviour is communication and has meaning. This therapeutic model aims to increase the student’s resilience, self-awareness and break unhelpful/maladaptive patterns in relationships and behaviour and helps them to reflect on their own feelings and experiences and begin to achieve healthier emotional and mental states of mind and secure attachments with others. At the Amicus School, we ensure our therapeutic provision is incorporated throughout the school day. This occurs in the very culture and structure, routines and boundaries of the school and day and by the pupils and staff together addressing and reflecting on their feelings, behaviour, and relationships, alongside their academic learning.

EHCP and Therapeutic Placement Plans
Every child who attends the school has an Education, Health and Care Plan and is provided with a full and regularly updated educational assessment with regular PEPs and annual reviews. Additionally, each student’s Therapeutic Placement Plan will include their education and it will focus on their attendance, relationships and behaviour in school, levels and learning capacity, and how the staff will work with the children’s trauma which in the past can act as a barrier and resistance to learning. Regular education reviews are held for each student involving the child’s Link Worker, Teacher and the child’s parent/carer and Social Worker (if applicable). This allows for integration between home life, education, and the child’s local authority and allows agreed targets to be set and reviewed. Where appropriate the children’s parents/carers and Social Workers are regularly informed of the child’s educational development. They are also invited to three end-of-term open days at the school, each academic year, where they can meet with the Teachers, see the child’s work, and share in their achievements.

The decision for a child being offered a placement at Amicus and our school is only taken after a full discussion between the Amicus Care, Education, and Treatment Team and those involved with the referral, including where appropriate the child’s parents/carers. Discussion with the child’s past or present educational providers is also included. As part of our referral process Amicus carry out an Assessment visit to informal observe the child and interact with them and to speak to the parents/carers and hear their experiences. This assists us in understanding whether the child would be receptive to our therapeutic model and whether we feel we can meet their needs and if they would be a good match for the current child group.