Brendan Herbert and Anne Southall.

A collaborative research project between La Trobe University and Kalianna specialist school is developing a pilot program, which addresses the impact of trauma on childhood learning.

La Trobe University researcher, Anne Southall, said that for too long education institutions have underestimated the extent that trauma affects children.

Ms Southall said her research, based on neuroscience, has made it abundantly clear that when a child has been traumatised it affects their ability to learn and thrive in a school community. The children are also five times more likely to fail school.

She said an abused or neglected child will exhibit a range of behaviours such as being disruptive or in some cases, being quiet and withdrawn.

“Trauma affects one in 32 Australian children,” Ms Southall said.

“These numbers are conservative and many children fly under the radar. The numbers of traumatised children are also predicted to rise.”

Three Bendigo schools are currently participating in training and preparation for the pilot program which will be rolled out in 2019.

Part of the preparation is the presentation of a play, Biting the Hand, based on the life of a 14-year-old boy who is in and out of Child Protective Services and his subsequent experiences of school.

The fundamental aspect of the pilot program is the nature of the relationship the teacher develops with the child,” Ms Southall said.

“The key is to make traumatised children feel safe and connected. This connection relates not only to the teacher but the children’s peers.”