How schools can combat social thinning

In this video, Family School Co-Director and Consultant Psychotherapist Brenda McHugh gives some practical examples of how to replicate the idea of a village raising a child in a school setting to help prevent exclusion. Science provides evidence that helps to explain to parents, carers, and colleagues why some practices have been put into place.

I think at the Family School, we were really clear when we set up the school that being excluded and that meaning that families were more isolated was the biggest problem for children who have all of these latent vulnerability difficulties. And that we needed to create a context that [we] almost replicated the idea of a village raising a child because these children are very much on their own; the parents failures mean they’re on their own. And the more that the family is on their own, let alone the child, the less learning is going on because you’re not picking up ideas from each other. The reinforcement that we are not a family that is successful continues. So, Family School is really built on combating social thinning. So, the way we do that is that, whenever the family comes in, there is a meeting with the family and all of the network to look at what help everybody thinks they need from the roles and responsibilities. Parents are invited in at the very beginning of a child attending, so we start off with the notion of parents being involved to help us better understand the child. But, not in a way of what we’re looking for is blame. What we’re looking for is creative opportunities to work together.

The neuroscience allows us to think proactively about what we can do to prevent exclusion, not because it’s a government thing that we all have to make sure that we’re reducing exclusions. But, actually why we went into this profession was to really help children change and change through knowledge and change through experience. And the neuroscience gives us a little bit more courage and a little bit more data to underline with colleagues and with parents why we’re taking a certain action. And gives us confidence that our instincts sometimes actually have some validity. And that instinct to put that into practice and then see the results of that, will then hopefully, grow and distribute through our colleagues as well.

Learn more

You can find the Childhood Trauma and the Brain animation and additional resources to support your learning on here. This includes a downloadable animation guide, explainer videos, an infographic, and articles on the research.

This video was generously funded by the Economic Social Research Council.

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