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Most children and young people enjoy life and are successful in school and in relationships. This lasts into adult life. But a significant minority struggle from an early stage and especially in adolescence.

The roots of a child or young person’s social-emotional wellbeing are found in their first attachment to their primary care-giver. The nature of that attachment determines not just their ability to form relationships but their capacity to learn. Secure attachment relationships correlate strongly with higher academic attainment, better self-regulation and social competence.

Educators must establish attachment-like relationships with their students, particularly with challenging and vulnerable children and young people, in order to improve their chances of learning and achieving.

Most children and young people enjoy life and are successful in school and in relationships. This lasts into adult life. But a significant minority struggle from an early stage and especially in adolescence. These children and young people can be:

  • Unfocused
  • Disruptive
  • Controlling
  • Withdrawn
  • Destructive.

They tend to underachieve in school and are often punished and even excluded. Little that schools do seems to work. As a result, these children and young people may not fulfil their potential as adults, either in employment or relationships.

If we can better understand WHY and HOW some children behave the way they do, we can then find ways to help them enjoy and succeed in their education.

See the materials 'An Introduction to Attachment and the implications for Learning and Behaviour' here.

Research on the importance of attachment

  • Nurturing adult attachments provide children with protective, safe havens and secure bases from which to explore andengage with others and their environment (Bowlby 1988)
  • Early care-giving has a long-lasting impact on development, the ability to learn, capacity to regulate emotions and form satisfying relationships (Siegel 2012)
  • Attachment is crucial to children’s psychological welfare and forms the basis of personality development and socialisation (Bowlby 1988)
  • Teachers, youth workers and significant adults in a child’s life can provide important attachments for children (Bergin and Bergin 2009, Riley 2010)
  • The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) 2015 guidelines on children's attachment indicate the importance of attachment issues in schools. 

Initial Teacher Education

We have been working with a number of virtual schools, teaching schools, initial teacher training and other organisations including The Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET), The National Association of School Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT), Teach First, and the Consortium for Emotional Well-Being in schools to integrate understanding of children’s emotional and attachment needs within teacher education. We contributed directly to Sir Andrew Carter’s Review on Initial Teacher Training in January 2015, which recommended all trainee teachers should be educated in child development. The new core framework for Initial Teacher Training published on 12 July 2016 includes specific reference to the importance of attachment under Teacher's Standard 5.

An example as to how Bath Spa University has incorporated attachment awareness across primary and secondary Initial Teacher Education can be found here. 

For the first time, in July 2016, all Teach First participants undertook a module in attachment awareness, jointly prepared by Bath Spa University and the Teach First curriculum development unit, as part of their Summer Institute training course.

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