Whole school approaches to EBSNA prevention

Whole school approaches to EBSNA prevention

EBSNA is not a diagnosis but is related to how safe and supported young people feel in school. There are various interventions and approaches which can be adopted at a whole-school level. These aim to reduce the risk of a young person developing EBSNA.

The following sections are designed to help schools promote emotional well-being, starting at a whole school level. These are some of the activities and interventions schools may be able to put in place to promote:

  • resilience
  • belongingness
  • emotional literacy skills
  • secure attachments.

The PACE model

'PACE’ stands for Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity, and Empathy, and was established by Dan Hughes. It encourages the application of these four personal qualities by staff when supporting children’s self-awareness, emotional intelligence and resilience. PACE focuses on the whole child. It is an effective approach for de-escalating conflict and increasing the chance of a child feeling understood.


This is about having an open, ready, calm, relaxed and engaged attitude. Adopting a playful quality when working with children and young people helps to keep things in perspective. It also creates a fun and light atmosphere. This could be achieved through using a ‘story-telling’ tone of voice. It should reduce angry and defensive responses from children.


Fostering a culture of unconditional acceptance of children’s thoughts, feelings and perceptions without judgement. This doesn’t always mean agreeing with a child’s interpretation. But it does mean accepting their feelings about it and emphasising that it’s okay to feel the way they do.


Seeking to understand what is driving children’s behaviour in an accepting way that reduces the risk of quick judgement. This could be done by asking questions and using a calm tone of voice. Children should still be clear on boundaries. Adults can still convey their intentions as being to help the child rather than lecture them.


Put yourself in the child’s shoes and allow yourself to feel what they must be feeling. This is not about providing reassurance, but about being with them and containing difficult big emotions. This lays the foundation for enhancing connections and provides comfort and support. This is different from expressing sympathy. It requires accessing difficult emotions within yourself to truly empathise.

More information is available about 'PACE' on the DDP Network

Restorative approaches

Many children and young people who experience EBSNA have experienced bullying or a breakdown of relationships. This could be with peers or teachers. Restorative approaches provide schools with a range of practices which promote:

  • mutually respectful relationships
  • manage behaviour and conflict
  • address bullying
  • absences
  • building community cohesion.

Restorative approaches offer a framework to build upon existing good practice. There is lots of evidence that shows how the use of restorative approaches, alongside Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL), helps to develop more resilient and self-regulating learners. Thus creating positive learning environments.

A restorative school is one which takes a restorative approach to resolving conflict and preventing harm. Restorative approaches enable those who have been harmed to convey the impact of the harm to those responsible. For those responsible, it ensures they acknowledge this impact and take steps to put it right.

To be effective, restorative approaches must be in place across the school. This means everyone must understand what acting restoratively means and how they can do it. This includes:

  • all pupils
  • staff (including non-teaching staff)
  • management
  • wider school community

As a result, restorative schools adopt a whole-school approach to restorative methods.

For more information, videos and resources on promoting restorative approaches in your school please visit the Restorative Justice Council website.


Helping children and young people to feel part of their school community acts as a buffer to the risk of becoming EBSNA. The Tree of Life activity is one that all schools can use during PSHE or form tutor time. You can explore and celebrate individual experiences and develop a sense of belonging with this activity. Information on how to draw the Tree of Life is available in Appendix 3.

Whole school nurture

(Nurture UK,

The concept of nurture relates to the importance of the social environment in the development of emotional well-beingChildren who have a good start in life are known to have significant advantages. They are more likely to attend compared to those who have experienced missing or distorted attachments

A whole school approach to Nurture embraces the idea that teachers can help children develop. This includes the social skills they need to thrive and the confidence and resilience to deal with whatever life throws at them. This is not just at school but for the rest of their lives.

Buckinghamshire schools can receive training in Nurture and access supervision for Nurture practitioners. This can be accessed from the iSEND Educational Psychologists.

Head to Nurture UK for more information about Nurture principles and developing a whole school approach.

Trauma-informed practices

Many children and young people experiencing EBSNA will have experienced some form of trauma. Particularly those where the third function of EBSNA (to avoid separation from the home or caregivers) is core to their avoidance. In an educational context, trauma-informed practice is a strengths-based framework in which schools and staff understand, recognise and respond effectively to the impact of trauma on pupils (Quadara & Hunter 2016; Craig 2016).

Trauma-informed practice should be a whole school approach. It should focus on consistent and predictable strategies that emphasise relating to the experiences of others. There is no single, proven model for successfully implementing trauma-informed practice. Researchers and practitioners suggest the following interrelated strategies can be useful in supporting the well-being and learning of all students. Particularly those impacted by trauma:

  • Ensuring physical and emotional safety for students and staff.
  • Respect for diversity, including different cultures, historical backgrounds and genders.
  • Positive relationships that are particularly focused on trustworthiness, consistency and predictability.
  • Empowerment of students, including taking a strengths-based approach. (SAMHSA 2014; AIFS 2016; Van der Kolk 2005; Craig 2016; Kezelman 2014; AIHW 2013)

Further information available

Buckinghamshire schools can access training on Trauma Informed Practices through the Virtual School.

More information about implementing whole-school approaches and strategies is available from NSW Government.

The Beacon House website has useful resources for supporting children

Download a copy of The Three R's (PDF, 505KB)

Emotional Literacy skill development

Emotional literacy is a term used to describe a number of skills that underpin emotional regulation, including:

  • Recognising emotional states
  • Understanding and labelling emotions
  • Being able to express our emotional experiences to others
  • Regulating our bodily responses to emotions

PSHE sessions should focus on these elements of emotional literacy. They could also be extended into ordinarily available provision for children who may need more targeted support.

Investing in training for staff to lead on emotional literacy skills may have a positive impact on children and young people at risk of becoming EBSNA. It focuses on the management of the uncomfortable feelings that elicit avoidance behaviour. The ELSA (Emotional Literacy Support Assistant) intervention developed by Sheila Burton was designed to enhance the capacity of schools to support the emotional needs of pupils.

Designated teaching assistants are taught to develop and implement personalised support programmes for pupils who need further support with their emotions. The training and supervision ELSAs receive is provided by Educational Psychologists.

Emotion coaching

At the core of EBSNA for many young people is their skills in recognising and managing their emotions. Emotion Coaching uses moments of heightened emotion and resulting behaviour to teach the child about more effective responses. Through empathetic engagement, the child's emotional state is verbally acknowledged and validated. This promotes a sense of security, and feeling 'felt'. This activates changes in the child's neurological system and allows the child to calm down, physiologically and psychologically.

Emotion Coaching UK has more information on how to use emotion coaching in your setting.

Promotion of emotional well-being

THRIVE is a leading provider of support for children and young people’s social and emotional development. Their whole-school approach to well-being can improve attendance, behaviour and attainment. The THRIVE approach consists of the following: 

Thrive-OnlineTM (tol)

This is a web-based profiling, action-planning and progress-monitoring tool. It enables you to ensure the best outcome for each child or group. 

THRIVE training

This focuses on the emotional needs of different age groups. It is informed by:

  • established neuroscience and attachment research
  • child development studies
  • research into risk and resilience factors

Continue to Part 2: Identification and early intervention

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