Today we welcome a guest post from Fagus, about a new tool they’ve developed for use in educational settings…
“One way teachers can become more sensitive to children is to increase their knowledge of child development.” (p. 158, Bergin & Bergin, 2009)
The impact of early trauma and loss on children’s subsequent development can be profound. For these children emotional and social development is often atypical, either developing later, at a slower rate or in a disordered manner. They often have ‘spiky’ profiles, with typical and expected behaviour in some areas but immature functioning in others. It is vital that teachers understand this development in order to understand children’s behaviour.
All too often we hear of children’s developmentally immature behaviour being misunderstood and labelled as ‘naughty’. But how can we expect teachers to understand emotional and social development if they aren’t taught about it in initial training, or given materials to help them do this? Two and a half years ago, at Beech Lodge School, we began working to fill this gap and Fagus was born!
Fagus (Noun: Latin Fagus (“beech”) – The Tree of Learning) is a comprehensive educational tool which supports teaching staff to:
- Understand typical emotional and social development during childhood and adolescence.
- Clarify their understanding of a child’s strengths and difficulties across emotional and social functioning.
- Use this understanding to set appropriate goals for pupils in emotional and social domains.
- Monitor social and emotional progress.
Fagus divides emotional and social development into 13 areas:
Three areas (Attachment, Cognitive Development and Language Development) are so fundamental to all aspects of development that these are identified as Core Developmental Areas. These can be considered as the ‘roots’ of development, from which the other ‘branches’ grow. Those living or working with children with attachment difficulties will be all too familiar with the impact of a disrupted attachment ‘root’ on the other roots and subsequent ‘branches’.
The Fagus Materials
The Fagus online checklists are completed by teaching staff and are used to create a developmental profile of the child. This provides a visual snapshot of a child’s development across the Fagus emotional/social domains, identifying key areas of need (i.e. the areas in which the child is most developmentally delayed):
On the profile, typical development is coloured green, somewhat delayed development yellow and significantly delayed development red. This child has a ‘spiky’ profile, with many strengths in some areas and significant difficulties in others.
Teachers can then use the Fagus developmental guides to investigate a child’s current point of development further and identify specific behaviours that they would like to improve. Using this information they can set a goal for the child, based on what would be expected to happen next in typical development. A plan can then be devised to help the pupil achieve this goal. Within the Fagus framework the aim is to support the child to move through the sequence systematically, rather than expecting them to make huge leaps towards behaviours associated with their chronological age.
Since its conception, Fagus has been used with pupils at Beech Lodge School and trialled in mainstream schools in Yorkshire and Humberside as part of a DfE funded PAC-UK project. We have received extremely positive feedback. Helen Hoban, educational advisor at PAC-UK has found that the Fagus materials shift the focus away from ‘problem’ behaviours to understanding the potential reasons behind this behaviour. In her words, for teachers, “the penny doesn’t just drop, it thuds”. She has also found that gaining a shared understanding of the child’s development brings teachers and parents onto the same page, enabling them to create a joint action plan to move forward. Most importantly, we have seen significant developmental progression being made by children as a direct result of using Fagus.
We are delighted to be launching the materials to all schools this week. For more information please visit www.fagus.org.uk (where the resource can be ordered) or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The cost for schools to buy Fagus is £660 (developmental guides) plus an annual licence fee to access the online checklists and profiles (£50 + £5 per pupil per year). We have an introductory offer of £495 with one year’s free annual licence for 10 pupils if ordered before 1st November 2016. Fagus was initially developed for pupils with attachment and trauma related difficulties; it is an effective and powerful use of Pupil Premium Plus funding.
All profits from Fagus go directly to Beech Lodge School – a not-for-profit charitable school for children aged 7-17 who have emotional and social difficulties. The majority of pupils at Beech Lodge have been fostered and adopted. For more information see www.beechlodgeschool.co.uk
Bergin, C., & Bergin, D. (2009). Attachment in the classroom. Educational Psychology Review, 21(2), 141-170. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.461.5271&rep=rep1&type=pdf