Last Updated: Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Nurture, Adverse Childhood Experiences and Trauma informed practice: Making the links between these approaches

What is this?

This document provides information on the key features of a nurturing approach, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and a Trauma informed approach.

Who is this for?

​The information provided will be of benefit to senior managers and practitioners in schools and early learning and childcare settings, but may also be of use to partners within education who are involved in this area.​​

​This document provides information on the key features of a nurturing approach. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and a Trauma informed approach. It offers some background as to how they specifically apply to a Scottish context and outlines the commonalities between the different approaches.​ It also provides some information on the benefits and challenges of implementing each approach and provides some details on examples of good practice in applying these approaches within an education context.​​

How to use this approach

The Adverse Childhood Experiences research has been around for several decades but has come to recent prominence in Scotland for a number of reasons including the sharing of the documentary ‘Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the science of hope’ This research has refocused attention on the importance of early development, particularly early adversity and as such fits particularly well with a nurturing approach. Nurturing approaches have been around in schools for a many years initially as a targeted approach but are increasingly being implemented as a universal approach to support the wellbeing of everyone within a school community. Trauma informed approaches have previously been more prominent in sectors out with education but increasingly schools are beginning to describe their practice as trauma informed. A recent publication entitled ‘Transforming psychological trauma’ indicates that it is intended to support the whole of the Scottish workforce.

Each of these approaches has its theoretical underpinnings in psychological, evidence based practice and emphasises the importance of how early adversity and trauma can impact on lifelong outcomes. Given the prominence of these approaches, it is helpful to look at how these approaches overlap and in particular how they fit within the overall legislative and policy context in Scotland including the Getting it right for every child agenda.

Improvement questions

Schools and early years settings should ask themselves the following questions when looking at these approaches.

  • ​To what extent do we have a shared understanding of what is included in a nurturing approach, trauma informed approach and Adverse Childhood Experiences and how these link with the wider policy context in Scotland?
  • How well do we use our understanding of these approaches to develop policy and practice that ensures that we have an inclusive, supportive and flexible learning environment that meets the needs of all learners but particularly those who have experienced early adversity and trauma?
  • To what extent do we ensure that any approach we take is linked to wider school priorities and involves the wider school community?

Explore this approach​

There are a number of documents which are referenced within this paper which help to clarify these approaches.

Some of the key papers which would be helpful for practitioners to familiarise themselves to support their understanding of these approaches are listed below.


PDF file: Making the links - Nurture, Adverse Childhood Experiences and Trauma (6​18 KB)