Understanding what behaviour may be trying to communicate

Trauma informed practice
Image: Classrooms filled with diversity.

Classrooms are full of diversity and with a changing landscape the NSW Department of Education is looking at how to better support all students.

The landscape in our classrooms is changing with a rise in mental health issues and students with complex needs. We've heard from our teachers, schools and communities that there is a growing need for professional development, to help build confidence and empower leaders, teachers and school-based staff to support students with these diverse and complex needs.

When a child enters a classroom they come with their own background, social and cultural understanding and in some instances trauma. Early exposure to trauma, extremely fearful events or overwhelming stress for young children can interrupt, impair or change brain development. This can impact emotions in relation to forming relationship and the ability to learn.

Traumatic events can include: a life-threatening illness or the death of a parent or primary caregiver, divorce, witnessing a violent crime or natural disaster, experiences of domestic violence, abuse or neglect. One-in-four children in Australia are affected by family violence and it is estimated that five million adults have been affected by childhood trauma and abuse. These are powerful numbers that paint a very complicated picture that can be difficult to navigate in a classroom.

The NSW Department of Education recognises the importance of trauma-informed practice for improving student outcomes and experience. Trauma-informed practice is about having the knowledge of developmental trauma, which provides the foundation to understand behaviours in the context of children and young people having experienced trauma.  Possessing this knowledge is relevant in education settings for children and young people, as it assists in providing an understanding of what the child or young person’s behaviour is communicating and how to respond to these behaviours to meet their needs for learning.

What we are doing

The professional learning team under the Disability Strategy Implementation unit are already hard at work researching, analysing and evaluating the current training in place.

We are working on a contextualised blended learning model which is focused on evidence-based strategies that can be implemented into schools and classrooms. The ultimate goal is to have a calmer, more positive learning environment for all students and teachers which improve outcomes for young people and their families.

More to come on this exciting new initiative.


"Trauma Informed Education”, Journal of the New South Wales Teachers Federation, 2019 https://news.nswtf.org.au/generate_pdf_tcpdf?cID=1158

“The cost of unresolved childhood trauma and abuse in adults in Australia”, 2015, ASCA, https://www.blueknot.org.au/Portals/2/Economic%20Report/The%20cost%20of%20unresolved%20trauma_budget%20report%20fnl.pdf

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