A project in which teachers were encouraged to form parental bonds with children in care saw a noticeable improvement in test results and behaviour.
The pilot project, staged in Bath and Stoke-on-Trent, involved 94 children in care who had suffered serious neglect and abuse while still with their families. Each received one-to-one support from a specially trained teacher in a more therapeutic environment than provided by regular schools.
The proportion of the children who met or exceeded expected standards in Maths and reading both increased over the school year – from 26 to 37 per cent in reading and 25 to 40 per cent in Maths.
In addition, the children displayed fewer incidents of problem behaviour in the classroom. ‘Sanctions’ (punishments) fell sharply, from an average of 7.46 per pupil to 3.78, while the rate of exclusions also dropped notably, from 38 to 18.
The participating teachers were trained in attachment theory : the belief that an inability to form strong bonds with caregivers in early infancy due to neglect can cause long-term damage to children’s mental health and behaviour. Parental figures must therefore make special efforts to address the needs of such youngsters. The teachers were taught how to build a strong relationship with the child and encouraged to minimise the use of confrontational punishments when they misbehaved.