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The Learning Institute

The Learning Institute

The Longitudinal Adverse Childhood Experience (LACE) Project

The LACE project is founded on the view that the more informed schools are about adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and the role they might play in responding to and supporting children facing such experiences, the more able they will be to support educational attainment of these children.

What are adverse childhood experiences?

The term adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) is used to describe experiences that directly hurt a child, such as physical, sexual or emotional abuse, or affect them through the environment in which they live (Bush, 2018). This includes growing up in a household where domestic violence, parental separation, mental illness, alcohol abuse, or drug abuse is present, or where someone has been incarcerated (Bellis et al., 2016, 2017).

Current research is focused on retrospective data such as a recent study linking ACEs to attendance in school and future health outcomes for children (Bellis et al., 2018). However, there is little published research on ACEs that children are experiencing now and the current impact on their learning, achievement and wellbeing.

This project will have a particular focus on children who experience domestic violence. Domestic violence may be described as exposure to violence, trauma and unrelenting stress (toxic stress) and experiencing this in childhood has been linked to serious effects on the health and wellbeing of children and young people, and subsequently adults and communities (Felitti et al., 1998). In addition, domestic violence may be a key indicator that other ACEs are present in a life.

Families rather than schools have been shown to have a greater influence on educational attainment (Marmot, 2010). Links between families and schools are crucial in improving children’s social and emotional wellbeing (McLean et al., 2017), which in turn will support children’s attainment.

Project aims and objectives 

This study intends to collect data from participating schools to form a longitudinal survey which will include:

  • Anonymised identification of children in a setting who are affected by domestic violence, other ACEs and adverse factors;
  • The tracking and correlation of potential impact on academic attainment;
  • The exploration of the effectiveness of particular school strategies and interventions;
  • Dissemination of findings and practices.

The project comprises three phases with Phase 1 commencing in Spring 2019. Data will be collected on a termly basis via a simple online electronic data system. It is hoped that participating schools will continue to engage with Phases 2 and 3 and that any child added to the system will be able to be tracked for the rest of their compulsory school attendance. Participating schools will have access to the results and evaluation from the research. In addition, they will have access to a best practice forum and there will be opportunities for small scale projects, CPD and training.

References and further reading 

Bellis, M. A., Ashton. K., Hughes, K., Ford, K., Bishop. J. and Paranjothy, S. (2016) Adverse childhood experiences and their impact on health-harming behaviours in the Welsh adult population. Cardiff: Public Health Wales NHS Trust.

Bellis, M. A., Hughes, K., Hardcastle, K. A., Ashton, K., Ford, K., Quigg, Z. and Davies, A. (2017) 'The impact of adverse childhood experiences on health service use across the life course using a retrospective cohort study', Journal of Health Services Research & Policy, 22 (3) pp. 168–177.

Bellis, M. A., Hughes, K., Ford, K., Hardcastle, K. A., Sharp, C. A., Wood, S., Homolova, L. and Davies, A. (2018) 'Adverse childhood experiences and sources of childhood resilience: a retrospective study of their combined relationships with child health and educational attendance', BMC Public Health, 18:792.

Bush, M. (ed.) (2018) Addressing adversity: prioritising adversity and trauma-informed care for children and young people in England. London: The YoungMinds Trust.

Felitti, V. J., Anda, R. F., Nordenberg, D., Williamson, D. F., Spitz, A. M., Edwards, V., Koss, M. P. and Marks, S. J. (1998) 'Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults', American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 14 (4), pp. 245-258.

Marmot, M. (2010) Fair society, healthy lives: the Marmot Review. London: The Marmot Review.

McLean, J., McNeice, V. and Mitchell, C. (2017) Asset based approaches in service settings: striking a balance. Glasgow: GCPH.