PFA Training - How we can support those who have experienced crisis

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As we prepare to welcome our children back into our schools many of us will be thinking about how they have been coping during lockdown. For some of our pupils this will have been a difficult time. Thank you for what so many of you have been doing to support those children through the regular contact, both academic and pastoral, during this extended period of remote learning. You may never be explicitly thanked for that support, although I hope you are, but you will have had a positive impact.


Simple empathic listening from a trusted adult is a huge, protective factor in the life of a young person going through a difficult period. We should all be confident that with a caring, thoughtful and empathic approach every contact we have with the children in our schools (and our colleagues, visitors and parents/carers etc.) can be a positive intervention.


For those of you interested in learning a little more about how we can support those who have experienced crisis Public Health England have made the Psychological First Aid training freely available. It takes between 1 and 2 hours to complete and is broken down into easy to digest chunks that explain the four phases of Prepare, Look, Listen and Link

  • ‘Prepare’ to deliver PFA – make sure you know the background and feel ready to act
  • ‘Look’ for signs of distress and assess the situation
  • ‘Listen’ to build understanding and empathy
  • ‘Link’ to further support (community activities and groups, physical activities, voluntary and statutory agencies and online resources)

Having completed the course this week I can recommend it as a useful aide memoir to concepts that are probably familiar to many of us. For any of you may have completed the Mental Health First Aid training this is complementary as it is directed towards helping those who have faced crisis, rather than recognising the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues.


If you don’t feel you have time to complete the PFA training can I encourage you to at the very least take less than 5 minutes to watch the following video, prepared by the Leicestershire Children’s Safeguarding Partnership, which reminds all of us how important it is to truly listen to what young people are telling us (via the spoken word and other forms of communication).

Some of the content may cause ‘afront’ at first but I would encourage you to be open and hear the ‘real content’. Please do connect with your local Designated Safeguarding Lead if the video prompts any concerns you may have for young people with whom you have been working, or speak to in the coming weeks.

Richard Woodland

Director of Inclusion, Westcountry Schools Trust