Buxton school bans the word ‘naughty’ – using yoga to help traumatised kids

A Buxton school has revolutionised the way it manages pupils’ behaviour - banning the word ‘naughty’ and providing a therapeutic environment for traumatised children.

Tuesday, 15th December 2020, 4:45 pm

Staff at Fairfield Infant and Nursery School have introduced short breaks in their learning for activities such as yoga, mindfulness and even dancing to reset anxious young minds.

And all staff - from admin workers to cooks - have been trained to see behaviour as ‘communication’.

The change came about when teachers realised a different approach was needed to work with the most challenging children in the school.

Sarah Humpleby, left, with fellow attachment-aware teacher Sarah Hewitt and Year 1 kids in the zen den

This year they set about training and doing research in classrooms to understand and help children struggling with their emotions.

The work has been inspired by theories about children’s need for a secure attachment with parents during infancy - and the behaviour which results when this need is not met.

Kids with attachment difficulties are known for constantly seeking attention from others - even if this means behaving negatively.

Sarah Humbleby, the school’s special needs coordinator, said Fairfield Infants was now a ‘more positive and calmer place’.

Year 1 children Henri Doxey, Khaleesi Gaunt and Charlie Meredith

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She said: “A lot of our pupils find emotional regulation quite difficult and they really want to be given attention - so we try and work with them to help them understand why they’re feeling what they’re feeling.

“The idea is that we all have that question in our minds about what their early childhoods might have been like.

“It’s about trying to unpick their behaviour and thinking about why they’re acting the way they are.

Reuben Hadfield. Hattie Wilde, Bryonie Holdcroft and Alfie-John French-Russell at a classroom 'calm down den'

“Our main focus is on emotions and because of that we feel we’re better able to support our children.”

Special needs teacher Sarah told how staff - already having undergone attachment training and re-written the school’s policies during the first lockdown - were prepared to deal with issues it caused when children returned in September.

She said: “Coronavirus has caused trauma for everyone - some kids would have been at home dealing with issues around unemployment.

“Most of them have lost attachments with teachers, friends and extended family - so we already had strategies in place to help them calm down.”

As well as creating a sensory ‘zen room’ with a trampoline pupils are encouraged to try and self-regulate their emotions by for example, leaning against a wall or ripping up some paper.

And the school’s timetable has been changed to allow for mindfulness and yoga breaks or ‘even some music and dancing’.

After ‘a year of hard work’ Fairfield Infant and Nursery School has been named an attachment-aware school by Derbyshire County Council’s Virtual School.

The Virtual School aims to work with schools such as Fairfield to empower young children - often living in care - to feel nurtured and valued and to get on well at school.

As part of the Virtual School network Fairfield Infant and Nursery School is able to share knowledge with others throughout the county - improving their own skills and knowledge.

Sarah said: “We’re really keen to go out and share what we’ve done with others - it’s something which would be really valuable and positive for any school.”

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.