Attachment awareness in schools – a model in partnership working or a sell-out?

Attachment awareness in schools has increasingly been seen as an important element in academic, professional and political discourse over the past ten years. It is argued that developing such approaches enhances the learning and school experience of vulnerable students, promotes well- being for staff and students, and enables appropriate provision to be made for those who find difficulty in coping with classroom situation.

If the development of attachment aware practice is to be successfully achieved, there needs to be a significant shift of emphasis at national level, in terms of government policy, frameworks for inspection, continuing professional development for teachers and initial teacher education. This shift also needs to take place at a local level, taking into account the changing role of local authorities, the role of academies, trusts, teaching schools, new third sector partners, and the new statutory role of the Virtual Headteacher.

Higher Education has a major potential role to play, as a local partner with schools , trusts, local authorities and other organisations, as well as a strategic partner with national organisations such as the National College for Teaching and Leadership, Ofsted and Teach First. Secondly, HE is a provider of training, and can offer programmes of CPD, including postgraduate masters programmes, initial teacher education and undergraduate studies. Thirdly, as research establishments, universities should be engaged both in action research on and the critical evaluation of attachment awareness.

These roles could be seen as potentially contradictory and ethically challenging, particularly when seen in the broader context of universities’ struggle for survival in a fragmenting world of partnerships, marketisation, reduced resources, and a political imperative to move all teacher education into schools.

Richard Parker will present a case study of the programme of activities developed by Bath Spa University on attachment, alongside Bath and North East Somerset(B&NES) Local Authority, local schools, the National College and a number of third sector organisations, including:

A pilot programme with B&NES schools
Training materials for teachers
Working with national groupings of virtual school headteachers
A partnership bid to develop a national research database, to inform a national quality standard
A Masters programme on Attachment and Learning

Richard will consider what criteria should be used to evaluate the success or otherwise of this programme, the extent to which it has impacted in any meaningful way on the everyday school experience of vulnerable young people, and the broader ethical and political issues raised.