It is clear that if we are going to effectively support all children in school we need to understand the power of relationships and the impact of adverse childhood experiences on development. We need to understand what their difficulties and behaviour is telling us about what they need.
Studying the features of a secure relationship and the factors which promote social and emotional wellbeing, helps us to understand what we must provide for children if we are to enable them to succeed.
The approach draws together research from several areas of psychology, biology and education. We started by thinking about the needs of the child in school and applying the theory and research that we felt would be most helpful for them.
The theoretical underpinnings come from the areas of neuroscience, attachment and connection, resiliency, solution-focused coaching, restorative approaches and cognitive science.
We have drawn on the expertise of therapists and educational practitioners, our own experience and the views and voices of the children we have worked with to develop a holistic model of support. The relationship is central.
We see relational learning as both a universal approach as well as a targeted approach for those who are most in need and require more intensive support.
We emphasise the importance of relational skills and the need to be reflective about how we are with children, as well as what we do. We aim to turn sometimes complex theory into practical approaches that can make a difference.
Relational learning aims to develop a belief in and understanding of how schools can support all children through individual relationships, classroom practice, and policy which supports practice systems that are responsive to their needs.
With the correct support, all children can be fully included in their educational setting, enjoy learning and succeed. Good relationships, within which children learn to feel safe and secure, trust and regulate, are the key to learning and development.
Schools are ideally placed to offer relational support. This support can and should become part of our everyday interactions with the children we work with.
We believe that it is most helpful to consider what we know helps children to develop rather than to focus on deficits. We focus on the psychological theory that tells us what makes a good relationship, what behaviour is telling us in terms of what we need to do and on what the child is telling us about what helps them, rather than diagnosing or labelling children.
Children need to have a voice, feel heard and have opportunities to develop a sense of agency if support is to be meaningful and effective.