Attachment and Trauma Sensitive School Bronze Award

I am very pleased to share with you that we have achieved the Attachment and Trauma Sensitive School Bronze Award. We have been working on this as part of our school improvement plan this year. It was lovely to share all our successes with the verification Assessors. Please see attached their comments.
My thanks go to all the staff in school for their commitment and hard work and especially Libby Fitton and the Nurture Team for pulling together all the valuable evidence.

Dear Karen,

Thank you for registering for the Attachment and Trauma Sensitive Schools Award (ATSSA) at Bronze Level, and for providing comprehensive evidence in support of your application. Thanks also for inviting me to conduct the verification for the Award today. I should like to extend my thanks to you, your senior team and other staff for making the virtual visit so purposeful and enjoyable.

I should like to warmly congratulate you and the rest of the staff on achieving the Award, which is an external sign of recognition of your commitment to the steps you have taken at  School to develop a culture of compassion and nurture. This, as you well know, plays a pivotal role in getting your pupils into a state of ‘learning readiness’. The Award is valid for two years and will run from January 2023 to January 2025.

All the criteria have been evidenced adequately, and in most cases, more than adequately. The evidence you have submitted comes from a broad variety of sources: case studies; extracts and examples of key documents and policies provided by you; from your website; and from interviews with a range of staff, including you and other members of the team. You provided me with much evidence to further support my own data gathered today and previously, and this has added depth and context to the completed evidence folders. 

There are a number of significant points that are worthy of special mention:

  • The personalised, individual approach to all pupils is evidenced through numerous practices, including induction and information gathering, ongoing formal and informal assessment and observation, and reflective dialogue and practice. Knowledge of each pupil’s needs across the developmental spectrum underpins relationships, interactions and planning, and you along with other members of staff provided particularly powerful evidence of this. This is a particular strength of the school, and I was really impressed by the many mechanisms you have in place to ensure that planning and support are fluid and organic, rather than static and inflexible.
  • You have a range of strategies in place for supporting parents and carers in understanding child development and attachment relationships. Strategies are largely informal in nature, and particularly engage parents who may find it difficult to trust service providers, including educators. Staff demonstrated a depth of understanding and empathy about why some families may be described as ‘hard to reach’, recognising that their relationship to ‘help’ may not have always have been positive in the past. Evidence about the support you offer to children and families was compelling and moving. You demonstrate deep empathy in relation to the daily struggles that families face. Connection with and care for families is a particular strength of the school.
  • Quality staff care and emotional support to protect mental health and well-being is multi-levelled and provided at a very high level, through SLT and varied therapeutic and peer support. Leaders are aware of the multiple risk factors to staff mental health and well-being, and are proactive in providing support to cope with the psychological and emotional demands of the job. There is an extensive range of processes and strategies to protect staff from ‘overwhelm’ or burnout, including referral to external services. All people interviewed shared that support for staff is non-judgemental and that leaders are approachable, flexible and empathic. They were fully aware of many avenues of support to which staff can be referred, formal and informal, in-house and external. Care for staff is a particular strength of the school.
  • Staff ensure that the curriculum is sensitive to pupils whose histories contain chaos, uncertainty and even threat. All staff interviewed shared thoughtful reflections about significant dates, celebrations/festivals, words and environments that might be triggering for a child, as well as more obvious triggers such as producing family trees. . Some examples were shared of how pre-teaching, one-to-one support and scaffolding can help children to hold conversations about difficult issues, knowing that they are with a safe person in a safe place.
  • Staff are fully aware of the importance of viewing a child through a developmental lens rather than a chronological one. Throughout all the interviews, staff demonstrated sensitivity to children’s histories and experiences. They were able to explain how adverse experiences have impacted development and describe how they are working with the children to support regulation and develop pro-social behaviour. They talked at length about building trust through emotional and physical availability, recognising that this is a long process for some children, because many of the adults they have encountered in the past simply have not been trustworthy. They gave multiple examples of how developmental delay can be caused by trauma, and how staff work in order to help children to notice and manage their uncomfortable thoughts and emotions. All staff interviewed demonstrated a deep curiosity about how to make the best possible provision for each individual child through meeting them at the developmental stage they are in at that time, and how they frequently have spiky developmental profiles. Viewing children through a developmental lens is a particular strength of the school.  
  • Methods for eliciting, hearing and responding children’s voices are broad and extensive. You described numerous strategies to ensure that no pupil is denied participation and all pupils, including the most vulnerable are enabled to communicate. Eliciting pupil voice at Holly Grove School is not limited to formal methods; every opportunity is taken to have meaningful encounters, which can take place at any time: in the playground; having lunch; in the classroom; during therapy; as well as in formal sessions. ‘Listening’ also takes place through observation, and lots of examples were given of the body being a ‘loudspeaker’ for what is going on inside. Staff have numerous methods and skills for helping children to communicate uncomfortable, even painful emotions, and provide them with a broad range of strategies and resources to elicit their voices. All approaches are individualised and truly personal to meet each child’s needs. At Holly Grove School there is an authentic and passionate desire to truly ‘hear’ and ‘see’ children and staff are genuinely curious about what matters to the pupils. This is a particular strength of the school.
  • All staff, led by a strong and visionary leadership team, take responsibility for providing a threat-free, safe environment around the children, where adults are in charge and take full responsibility for what happens, including connection, attunement, boundaries and navigation. This frees up the children from the overwhelming burden of having to keep themselves (physically and emotionally) safe.

I hope that you will celebrate your achievement with pupils, staff, governors, parents/carers and other stakeholders to celebrate the school’s commitment to its children, successfully removing barriers to learning and participation in the life of the school. I have felt particularly privileged to share your journey. I really hope that you will register for the Silver Award – Attachment and Trauma Friendly and I already look forward to continuing to support you through the next steps!

Yours sincerely,


Dr Jennifer A Nock, CPsychol, AFBPsS, PhD, BSc (Hons)                Bridie White LLB MA

Burnley Campus, Barden Lane,
Burnley, Lancashire, BB1O 1JD


Lisa-Jane Brown and Holly Mackenzie

01282 953710


Karen Alty


Eve Taylor


The Georgia Fourie Butterfly Fund was set up in 2009, in conjunction with her parents, in memory of a very special pupil who sadly passed away after many years of bad health.