There is a famous science experiment in which it is alleged that if you put fleas in a
jar with the lid on they will jump and jump hitting their heads on the roof of the jar
until they learn that this is a pointless, frustrating and painful activity - at which point
they stop jumping high and only jump as high as the jar: no longer hitting their heads
on the ceiling. The thing is that this continues even when the lid of the jar is
removed: the fleas have learnt to jump to the height to which their circumstances
allow. Even more staggering is that when the fleas reproduce, their children follow
their parents’ example and only jump as high as the jar and no further – lid or no lid.
They have learned how high they are allowed to jump. Whether this experiment has
been peer reviewed and this is an academically rigorous analysis of flea behaviour is
beyond the scope of this blog, but it is a powerful representation of what happens to
some of our most vulnerable children.
There is significant evidence that trauma experienced at a young age has profound
implications for the way our brains grow. MRI scans show the difference between the
shape and formation of the brain of a child who has received consistent love and
one-to-one attention with that of a child who's been abused, neglected or ignored -
you can literally see the difference. The prefrontal cortex does not mature as well
and essential parts of development and brain growth are affected. Trauma affects
children’s cognitive processes. Our most vulnerable children are playing catch-up
before they have even begun.
The good news is there is the potential for neural pathways to be changed and
adapted, there is hope. The brain is ever-changing and even the most traumatised
child with the right support can overcome habits that once seemed unbreakable.
Children who have been traumatised need not be left behind.
At Lumina we work to redress the balance and support looked after children, children
known to the care system who have experienced great trauma in their lives. They
are behind their peers and they're struggling to pass key facilitating exams for the
next stage of their lives. The educational journey is in danger of ending before it has
even begun. We change this narrative by offering them unconditional support. We
pair a looked after child, with a brilliant teacher and that teacher tutors them through
the whole academic year or up to their next public exam. We ask our teachers to
volunteer their time. This is a vital part of what we do - teachers are doing this
because they believe in it. Lumina is a programme that shows how teachers can
change the dial for a young person, not paying lip service to partnership but
changing children’s lives through collaboration, kindness and consistency – to have
the impact we dreamt of when we signed up for the world’s greatest profession. If
more teachers join Lumina we can grow our movement so that we're working with
thousands of looked after children - we will change the dial for these young people
and we will have a profound effect on their future and educational outcomes – we will
change their world.
I am better at my job (a teacher of Mathematics) because of Lumina. I have
developed ways of teaching considering meta-cognition and research into the effect
that trauma has on the developing brain. I now understand how this can have lifelong
consequences and can even be passed through generations. My learnings from
Lumina have translated into better practice in the classroom.
Better teachers, serious impact, potential unleashed, and the direction of young lives
transformed – it is hard to argue against signing up to support the Lumina