Punitive behaviour management policies and practices in secondary schools: A systematic review of children and young people’s perceptions and experiences (2023)

Authors: Rebecca Jones, Jana Kreppner, Fiona Marsh and Brettany Hartwell
Published: 2023
Publication: Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties

Traditional in-school approaches focus on using consequences for managing pupil behaviour. Within published literature, concerns have been raised about the effectiveness and negative impact of punitive approaches. This systematic synthesis explores the perspectives of children and young people (CYP) in secondary schools on in-school punitive behaviour management policies and practices. Papers are evaluated using an adapted version of the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (2019) and study findings are analysed using thematic synthesis. The findings highlight CYP’s thoughts on the fairness and consistency of punitive consequences, the impact of these on academic development and emotional wellbeing, and the limited long-term effectiveness of such approaches. CYP explain their need to feel listened to, understood and supported with their behaviour and emotions. Implications of these views for school staff, educational professionals and education policy makers are outlined.

Jones, R., Kreppner, J., Marsh, F. & Hartwell, B. (2023) Punitive behaviour management policies and practices in secondary schools: A systematic review of children and young people’s perceptions and experiences, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, 28:2-3, 182-197, DOI: 10.1080/13632752.2023.2255403

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Exploring the impact of gender identity and stereotypes on secondary pupils’ computer science enrolment interest (2023)

Authors: Eleanor Beck, Cora Sargeant and Sarah Wright
Published: 2023
Publication: International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology

There is an underrepresentation of women working in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) industries. Initiatives to encourage greater diversity in STEM have been less successful in computer science. This research investigates whether identification with gender stereotypes (defined as the extent to which one identifies with stereotypical masculine or feminine traits) and other factors predict enrolment interest in computer science and whether stereotypical cues impact on these relationships. British secondary school students were shown either a stereotypical or a non-stereotypical computer science classroom and completed measures assessing their identification with gender stereotypes, enrolment interest, belonging, stereotype threat, self-efficacy and utility value. Femininity significantly predicted lower enrolment interest and this relationship appeared to be mediated by stereotype threat. This study extends previous research by showing that young peoples’ identification with gender stereotypes predicts enrolment interest to some degree. We highlight the need to challenge persistent stereotypes regarding who best ‘fits’ computer science.

Beck, E., Sargeant, C. & Wright, S. (2023) Exploring the impact of gender identity and stereotypes on secondary pupils’ computer science enrolment interest (2023). International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology, 15(1), 48–71.

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“If You’re Not Yourself, Who are You Going to be?” an Exploration of Gender and Sexuality Diverse Pupils Experiences of Visibility Management in School: A Systematic Literature Review (2023)

Authors: Cleo Timney, Sarah Wright, and Cora Sargeant
Published: 2023
Publication: Journal of Homosexuality

Like all young people (YP), those who are gender and sexuality diverse (GSD) spend their youth exploring and discovering their identities; but unlike their peers, they must consider whether, how, and when to disclose their GSD identity to others in a dynamic process of visibility management (VM). At school, GSD YP actively test social reactions, interpret attitudes, and assess safety, ultimately seeking belonging as their authentic selves. Our systematic review explored findings from 16 qualitative studies capturing GSD YPs experiences of managing visibility in schools internationally. Data were thematically synthesized, and seven themes were constructed. The process of visibility management is fluid, a negotiation with social norms that GSD YP’s very existence transgresses. YP search for, and through activism actively shape, accepting environments in which they can safely be their authentic selves. GSD YP are actively asking school staff for help in creating open communities where all YP can find a place to belong, to fight to be visible. We offer some suggestions for how we might begin.

Timney, C., Wright, S. & Sargeant, C. (2023) “If You’re Not Yourself, Who are You Going to be?” an Exploration of Gender and Sexuality Diverse Pupils Experiences of Visibility Management in School: A Systematic Literature Review (2023). Journal of Homosexuality, DOI: 10.1080/00918369.2023.2246616

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Precision Teaching for maths: An academic critique (2023)

Authors: Nicole Harris and Sarah Wright
Published: 2023
Publication: DECP Debate

This critique briefly summarises the evolution of the Precision Teaching (PT) approach, exploring what PT is, who it can be used with and its theoretical underpinnings. The results of a systematic literature search exploring the question ‘Is Precision Teaching effective at improving maths skills in school aged children and
young people?’ are then discussed. Based on the five publications reviewed, the interventions that involved PT generally showed greater performance gains than the control or comparison group. Given the highly specific conditions of these interventions however, it is not possible to generalise the intervention effects beyond these studies. It must therefore be concluded that based on these five papers, it is not possible to say whether PT is an effective way to support maths skills. The implications for professional practice suggest a need to establish an evidence base, built around formalised and structured evaluations of PT, that use a control or comparison group. It is suggested that more teachers be involved in this process rather than it being the role of academics. This would enable teachers and Educational Psychologists to speak with more certainty of the efficacy of PT at improving maths skills in school aged children and young people.

This is a pre-publication version of the following article:

Harris, N. & Wright, S. (2023) Precision Teaching for maths: An academic critique (2023). DECP Debate, 186, 6-17. DOI: 10.53841/bpsdeb.2023.1.186.6

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How to tackle poor teacher wellbeing for primary school teachers in England? Strategies to enhance teacher wellbeing and work conditions in teaching practice. (2023)

Authors: Sukhjagat Brar and Cora Sargeant
Published: 2023
Publication: DECP Debate

This paper draws on Positive Psychology (Seligman, 2010) and attention to the Finnish context to explore ways of improving teacher wellbeing among primary schools in England.

This is a pre-publication version of the following article:

Brar, S. & Sargeant, C. (2023) How to tackle poor teacher wellbeing for primary school teachers in England? Strategies to enhance teacher wellbeing and work conditions in teaching practice. DECP Debate, 185, 7-14. DOI: 10.53841/bpsdeb.2023.1.185.7

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Does Reading Aloud to a Dog Improve Children’s Reading Outcomes? An Academic Critique (2023)

Authors: Jenny Gu and Sarah Wright
Published: 2023
Publication: DECP Debate

Educators are increasingly seeking innovative interventions to improve children’s reading skills through enhancing their reading enjoyment, motivation, and frequency. One such approach is through canine-assisted reading interventions in schools, which involve children reading aloud to therapy dogs and their handlers. The popularity of this approach is growing, with the development and delivery of numerous programmes and organisations worldwide. Given increasing interest in canine-assisted reading programmes in schools, there is a need to subject these interventions to scientific scrutiny, to evaluate the extent to which they are grounded in psychological theory, determine their efficacy for improving reading outcomes, and inform their implementation. In this critique, an overview of the theoretical underpinnings of reading aloud to dogs is first presented. Intervention effects are explained in terms of attachment theory, attentional control theory, and self-determination theory. The current critique also includes the first systematic review examining the effects of school-based canine-assisted interventions, compared to control conditions, on children’s reading outcomes. Findings from nine controlled studies are discussed. Currently, there is mixed and limited evidence for the efficacy of school-based canine-assisted reading interventions, compared to control conditions, on children’s reading skills, attainment, and attitude. Implications for practice and intervention implementation are considered.

This is a pre-publication version of the following article:

Gu, J. & Wright, S. (2023) Does Reading Aloud to a Dog Improve Children’s Reading Outcomes? An Academic Critique DECP Debate, 185, 22-41. DOI: 10.53841/bpsdeb.2023.1.185.22

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Teachers’ beliefs: How they shape the support offered to trans-spectrum young people (2023)

Authors: Beckett Markland, Cora Sargeant and Sarah Wright
Published: 2023
Publication: Teaching and Teacher Education

Focus groups and an individual interview were carried out with 15 secondary school teachers in South East England, exploring their beliefs regarding gender identity and how this influences the support offered to trans-spectrum young people. Through a process of reflexive thematic analysis, six themes were developed, indicating that lack of confidence, fears of community resistance and implicitly held views of gender identity underscored a hesitancy in teachers’ practice. However, teachers expressed a strong desire to develop their knowledge and through reflection within their focus group or interview, began to construct ideas of how to be inclusive in their work.

Click here to visit the web page from which this edition of the journal can be downloaded (open access).

Markland, B., Sargeant, C., & Wright, S. (2023) Teachers’ beliefs: How they shape the support offered to trans-spectrum young people. Teaching and Teacher Education, 124. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2023.104019

What can Teachers do to Challenge Heteronormativity? A Systematic Literature Review (2022)

Authors: : Beckett Markland, Cora Sargeant and Sarah Wright
Published: 2022
Publication: Psychology of Sexualities Review

Research indicates there is a gap between teachers’ positive beliefs about LGBTQ+ inclusive education and how they demonstrate this in practice. Teachers often feel limited in their capacity to implement inclusive practices, constrained by dominant heteronormative narratives in schools. Through a three-stage thematic synthesis approach, a review was conducted to explore: what can teachers do to challenge heteronormativity? The developed themes indicate that teachers can work strategically within their community context, integrate non-normative representations throughout the curriculum, role model inclusivity and acts of social justice, and facilitate a co-constructive learning environment. These themes are discussed in the context of facilitators and barriers around LGBTQ+ inclusive education, leading to a discussion of implications relevant to educators across a range of settings.

This is a pre-publication version of the following article:

Markland, B., Sargeant, C. & Wright, S. (2022) What can Teachers do to Challenge Heteronormativity? A Systematic Literature Review. Psychology of Sexualities Review, 13(1), 43-68.

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How the implementation of a secondary school nurture group relates to whole-school approaches and ethos: a case study (2022)

Authors: Karen O’Farrell, Larissa Cunningham, Brettany Hartwell and Jana Kreppner
Published: 2022
Publication: The International Journal of Nurture in Education

Nurture Groups (NGs) have been widely implemented with vulnerable young people in mainstream primary schools to support the development of secure relationships and so promote a sense of wellbeing and readiness for learning. Success of the intervention within the primary school environment has led to increasing interest in the applicability of NGs to secondary schools. Within this single-school case study, the experiences and perceptions of NG and non-NG pupils and school staff were explored through individual semi-structured interviews and focus groups. Thematic analysis of the data produced three main themes and nine subthemes, developed across the three stakeholder groups. Findings suggested that the successful implementation of secondary NGs is related to whole-school approaches and ethos. Secondary NGs can provide extensive support for vulnerable pupils and support a positive approach to whole-school wellbeing. Recommendations for developing secondary NG practice include: embedding NG practice into whole-school culture, adopting a more flexible approach to how NGs are organised and how they operate, and considering the particular needs of Year 11 pupils

Click here to visit the web page from which this edition of the journal can be downloaded (open access).

O’Farrell, K., Cunningham, L., Hartwell, B. & Kreppner, J. (2022) How the implementation of a secondary school nurture group relates to whole-school approaches and ethos: a case study. The International Journal of Nurture in Education, 8, 48-66.

Flipped learning in secondary school mathematics- is it worth the flip? (2021)

Authors: Hannah Edwards and Sarah Wright
Published: 2021
Publication: DECP Debate

There is a growing argument that the traditional method of teaching maths is ineffective at developing fluent and adaptive mathematical skills (Boaler et al., 2015; Weiss & Pasley, 2004), resulting in disengaged and dissatisfied students (Boaler et al., 2015; Brown et al., 2008; Clark, 2015; Nardi & Steward, 2003). Flipped learning provides an alternative pedagogy, whereby digital instructional content is digested by students before lessons, freeing-up in-class time for more engagement with teachers and peers on real-life maths problems, promoting higher-level thinking skills (Bergmann & Sams, 2012). In this critique, theories underpinning flipped learning are described and a systematic search of the evidence-base exploring the effectiveness of flipped learning as a maths pedagogy for students aged 11-16 years is conducted and reviewed. Implications for using flipped learning in educational practice are discussed, including implications following the COVID-19 pandemic. With education experiencing unprecedented challenges since 2020 due to national lockdowns, increased student and teacher self-isolation, and reduced time in the classroom, the potential of flipped learning is considered as an alternative or additional supplement to traditional maths teaching.

This is a pre-publication version of the following article:

Edwards, H. & Wright, S. (2021) Flipped learning in secondary school mathematics- is it worth the flip? DECP Debate, 179, 7-15.

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Tree of Life: A Tool for Therapeutic Growth? (2021)

Author: Husna Kasmani
Published: 2021
Publication: Educational Psychology Research and Practice

This paper presents a review of the Tree of Life (ToL) — a strengths-based tool rooted in narrative therapy — as an intervention for children and young people (CYP). Originally developed to support vulnerable young people in Zimbabwe, ToL is now used to support children and adults in many countries and contexts across the world. This paper discusses key aspects of the tool, evaluates the evidence base of ToL with young people, shares the views of CYP and parents, and suggests implications for schools and educational psychology practice in the UK.

Kasmani, H. 2021. Tree of Life: A Tool for Therapeutic Growth? Educational Psychology Research and Practice. 7 (1), pp. 1-9. https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.899yx

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Dyslexia or Literacy Difficulties: What Difference Does a Label Make? Exploring the Perceptions and Experiences of Young People (2021)

Authors: Rosa Gibby-Leversuch, Brettany K. Hartwell and Sarah Wright 
Published: 2021
Publication: Educational Psychology Research and Practice

This study explores the views of young people (YP), with and without self-reported dyslexia or literacy difficulties, focussing on the impact of labels. Qualitative data were gathered through an online survey and individual interviews. The study highlights how the presence or absence of a label can impact people’s perceptions. Dyslexia was perceived as biological in origin; therefore, YP with the label were seen as not to blame for their difficulties. However, more negative judgements were made about YP without the label but with the same difficulties. Participants viewed the label as important for gaining support, yet highlighted the potential for discrimination in terms of access to diagnosis and resources. What was important to participants with dyslexia was not necessarily the label but the support that they received and how they were viewed by others. Implications for school professionals are discussed in terms of ensuring that YP feel empowered by the way they are described.

Gibby-Leversuch, R., Hartwell, B. K. and Wright, S. 2021. Dyslexia or Literacy Difficulties: What Difference Does a Label Make? Exploring the Perceptions and Experiences of Young People. Educational Psychology Research and Practice. 7 (1), pp. 1-15. https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.899yq

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Educational psychologists’ involvement in critical incidents: self-efficacy and influencing factors (2021)

Authors: Joanne Bennett, Hannah Edwards, Charlotte Finnegan, Rebecca Jones, Caroline Carpenter and Cora Sargeant
Published: 2021
Publication: Educational Psychology in Practice

Supporting school communities following a critical incident (CI) is a stressful, yet established, part of an educational psychologist’s (EP’s) role. The authors aim to explore whether emotional intelligence (EI), the number of CIs worked, and coping strategies predict EPs’ CI self-efficacy, and to gather EPs’ views on CI training. Ninety-five EPs working for UK local authorities completed an online survey that measured their self-efficacy towards CIs, their EI, and coping strategies. Information about how CIs are allocated, supervision, training received, and suggestions for future training were obtained. EI, approach coping strategies, and avoidant coping strategies were all predictors of CI self-efficacy. Results showed that 76.5% of EPs considered they needed more CI training and expressed they would benefit from knowledge- and experiential-based training. Implications are discussed, using a training framework informed by sources of self-efficacy, emphasising the need to be consciously aware of the EI and coping strategies that EPs already possess.

Bennett, J., Edwards, H., Finnegan, C., Jones, R., Carpenter, C. & Sargeant, C. (2021) Educational psychologists’ involvement in critical incidents: self-efficacy and influencing factors. Educational Psychology in Practice, DOI: 10.1080/02667363.2021.2000371

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The perspectives and experiences of children with special educational needs in mainstream primary schools regarding their individual teaching assistant support (2021)

Author: Hayley Pinkard
Published: 2021
Publication: European Journal of Special Educational Needs

This paper reports a small-scale qualitative research project, carried out in the south of England. Ten children (aged ten-eleven) with a range of SEN, from mainstream primary schools, took part in individual semi-structured interviews about their TA support. Child-friendly interviews utilised toy props and a creative ‘Ideal TA’ activity to aid communication and engagement. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. Participants’ perspectives highlighted the ways in which their TAs had been deployed, which they perceived to enable helpful scaffolding of learning, but also caused a significant degree of separation from teachers. The nurturing characteristics of TAs were appreciated, and the positive impacts of TA support on pupils’ social inclusion and emotional well-being were emphasised.

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in the European Journal of Special Educational Needs on 20/04/21, available online:

Pinkard, H. (2021) The perspectives and experiences of children with special educational needs in mainstream primary schools regarding their individual teaching assistant support. European Journal of Special Educational Needs, 36(2), 248-264. https://doi.org/10.1080/08856257.2021.1901375 

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Mental health beyond the school gate: Young people’s perspectives of mental health support online, and in home, school and community contexts (2020)

Authors: Natalie Jago, Sarah Wright, Brettany K. Hartwell and Rachel Green
Published: 2020
Publication: Educational and Child Psychology

Aims: This study sought to develop a greater understanding of what young people identify as essential components of mental health support.
Rationale: Children and young people’s mental health has been identified as an area of concern and highlighted by the government as a priority area for improvement. In the United Kingdom (UK), increased importance has been placed on capturing their views. However, research suggests this group is not always asked for their views by decision-makers leading to a discrepancy between what is provided and what children and young people want from support. Incorporating the views and perspectives of children and young people in the design of appropriate support approaches is an important way to give them a voice in issues that affect them, as well as ensuring provision is suitable.
Method: A two-round Delphi method was used whereby a panel of young people aged 16-25 who had previously experienced a mental health difficulty rated a series of statements. A consensus level of 75% across the panel was set to include/exclude statements in a final framework of recommendations. To gain feedback on the feasibility and utility of the framework, interviews with adult stakeholders were carried out.
Findings: The competencies identified were used to form a framework of recommendations for practice. The importance of relationships, the need for trust and confidentiality, and the need for further mental health awareness and training were key themes identified.
Conclusions: This study provides a helpful insight into what young people value from mental health support. Implications of the research include a need for further awareness raising of children and young people’s views regarding mental health and larger scale participatory research to expand upon the findings of the current study.

Jago, N., Wright, S., Hartwell, B. K. & Green, R. (2020) Mental Health Beyond the School Gate: Young People’s Perspectives of Mental Health Support Online, and in Home, School and Community Contexts. Educational and Child Psychology, 37(3), 69-85.

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A systematic review and meta‐analysis of sex/gender differences in social interaction and communication in autistic and nonautistic children and adolescents (2020)

Authors: Henry Wood-Downie, Bonnie Wong, Hanna Kovshoff, Samuele Cortese and Julie Hadwin
Published: 2020
Publication: Child Psychology and Psychiatry

Background: Evidence increasingly suggests that ASD manifests differently in females than males. Previous reviews investigating sex/gender differences in social interaction and social communication have focused at the level of broad constructs (e.g. comparing algorithm scores from pre‐existing diagnostic instruments) and have typically reported no significant differences between males and females. However, a number of individual studies have found sex/gender differences in narrow construct domains.
Method: We conducted a systematic review and random effects model meta‐analyses (in January 2019 and updated January 2020) that investigated sex/gender differences in narrow construct measures of social communication and interaction in autistic and nonautistic children and adolescents, and adults. Study quality was appraised using the Appraisal Tool for Cross‐Sectional Studies (AXIS, BMJ Open, 6, 2016, 1).
Results: Across 16 studies (including 2,730 participants), the analysis found that female (vs. male) individuals with ASD had significantly better social interaction and social communication skills (SMD = 0.39, p < .001), which was reflective of a similar sex/gender profile in nonautistic individuals (SMD = 0.35, p < .001). Nonautistic males had significantly better social interaction and communication than males with ASD (SMD = 0.77, p < .001). Nonautistic females also had significantly better social interaction and communication than females with ASD (SMD = 0.72, p <.001). Nonautistic males had better social interaction and communication than females with ASD, though this difference was not significant (SMD = 0.30, p = .07).
Conclusions: This systematic review and meta‐analysis highlighted important sex/gender differences in social interaction and communication for individuals with ASD, likely not captured by pre‐existing diagnostic instruments, which potentially contribute to the under recognition of autism in females, and may need to be reflected in the diagnostic process.

Wood-Downie, H., Wong, B., Kovshoff, H., Cortese, S. & Hadwin, J. A. (2020) Research Review: A systematic review and meta‐analysis of sex/gender differences in social interaction and communication in autistic and nonautistic children and adolescents. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. DOI: 10.1111/jcpp.13337

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Primary school children’s perspectives and experiences of Emotional Literacy Support Assistant (ELSA) support (2020)

Authors: Bonnie Wong, Danielle Cripps, Hayley White, Laura Young, Hanna Kovshoff, Hayley Pinkard and Colin Woodcock
Published: 2020
Publication: Educational Psychology in Practice

This study explores primary school aged children’s perspectives and experiences of their Emotional Literacy Support Assistant (ELSA) support. Thematic analysis was employed to analyse qualitative data from semi-structured interviews with 12 Key Stage 2 participants, who had had a minimum of one month’s ongoing ELSA support. Four core themes were identified: positive relationships, unique qualities, facilitates skill development, and positive impact. The findings suggest the importance of a positive therapeutic relationship with an ELSA, and that children value ELSAs teaching specific individualised coping strategies in particular. The findings may also be pertinent to practitioners outside of ELSA related work, highlighting the importance of listening to children of all ages and employing alternative methods, such as drawing, to support them in sharing their views. Since the evidence base for ELSA support is limited, this study contributes children’s views to this area, and should be used to inform future research.

Wong, B., Cripps, D., White, H., Young, L., Kovshoff, H., Pinkard, H. & Woodcock, C. (2020) Primary school children’s perspectives and experiences of Emotional Literacy Support Assistant (ELSA) support. Educational Psychology in Practice. DOI: 10.1080/02667363.2020.1781064

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What beliefs influence children and young people’s attitudes towards the transgender population? (2020)

Authors: Jenna Read, Cora Sargeant and Sarah Wright
Published: 2020
Publication: Educational and Child Psychology

Aims: This review aims to identify and explore the specific beliefs that influence children and young people’s (CYP’s) attitudes towards the transgender population.
Method: A systematic review of the literature was undertaken and a total of 14 studies were included in the review. The review included studies from the United States, Europe, and Asia. Each study was appraised using Gough’s (2007) Weight of Evidence Framework and awarded a quality assurance rating of low, medium, or high quality.
Findings: The review identified three sets of beliefs that appear to influence CYP’s attitudes towards the transgender population: Heteronormativity, conservatism and gender essentialism. Gender differences in beliefs were found to influence attitudes towards the transgender population as a whole and towards Male-to-Female (MtF) individuals and Female-to-Male (FtM) individuals.
Limitations: The key limitation within this review is that the mechanisms through which beliefs influence CYP attitudes are hypothetical. Further insight using qualitative approaches would deepen the understanding of the underpinnings of attitudes towards the transgender population, particularly transprejudice. A variety of measures were used across the included studies which limits the comparability
of the finding and conclusions drawn
Conclusions: This review identified three sets of beliefs that influence attitudes towards the transgender population. These beliefs represent a traditional, binary model of gender that contrasts with the experiences of gender-diverse populations. A more inclusive model of gender is proposed whereby acceptance, diversity and belonging are promoted.

Read, J., Sargeant, C. & Wright, S. (2020) What beliefs influence children and young people’s attitudes towards the transgender population? Educational and Child Psychology, (37)1, 11-36.

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Teaching Early Reading Skills to Children with Severe Intellectual Disabilities Using Headsprout Early Reading (2019)

Authors: Emma Herring, Corinna Grindle and Hanna Kovshoff
Published: 2019
Publication: Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities

Background: Beginning reading skills are often taught using phonics. Research has demonstrated the effectiveness of phonics with typically developing students, but less research has evaluated this method with students with intellectual disabilities.
Method: This paper evaluated the computerized phonics‐based intervention Headsprout Early Reading¼ with eight students aged 7–19 years with severe intellectual disability. Six children were verbal, two were non‐verbal. Four students completed Headsprout as it was designed for typically developing children, and four students accessed two adapted version of the intervention. Additional table‐top teaching was used to support the intervention for some participants.
Results: Verbal students improved in initial sound fluency, nonsense word reading, and word recognition, but did not show improvements in phonemic segmentation, regardless of whether or not they accessed the original or adapted intervention.
Conclusions: The findings suggest that Headsprout Early Reading can be used to support the development of reading skills for students with intellectual disability.

Herring, E., Grindle, C. & Kovshoff, H. (2019) Teaching Early Reading Skills to Children with Severe Intellectual Disabilities Using Headsprout Early Reading. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities. DOI: 10.1111/jar.12603

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To What Extent Is the Thrive Intervention Grounded in Research and Theory? (2019)

Authors: Rosa Gibby-Leversuch, Jasmine Field and Tim Cooke
Published: 2019
Publication: Educational Psychology Research and Practice

The Thrive approach is an assessment and planning based intervention that aims to develop children’s social and emotional wellbeing. Despite the increased popularity of Thrive, there is limited research that has investigated its effectiveness. After reviewing the assessment, training and intervention elements of Thrive and the evidence base for the underpinning assumptions, this article considers the evaluative research. Thrive is rooted in attachment theory and assumes that infant development is vulnerable to disruption by poor attachment experiences and that these disruptions can be ameliorated in later life through the development of secure relationships with school staff. The article concludes that, while Thrive is based on attachment theory, which itself is well supported by evidence, how Thrive applies and interprets this theory is less well supported. There is currently limited evidence of the impact of Thrive on children’s development. Other issues and implications of this critique are also discussed.

Gibby-Leversuch, R., Field, J., & Cooke, T. (2019). To what extent is the thrive intervention grounded in research and theory? Educational psychology research and practice, 5(2), 1–8. Available at: https://repository.uel.ac.uk/item/8873x

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Academic self-concept and sense of school belonging of adolescent siblings of autistic children (2020)

Authors: Alexandra Gregory, Richard P. Hastings and Hanna Kovshoff
Published: 2020
Publication: Research in Developmental Disabilities

Background: Whilst there is a growing body of research on the psychological outcomes for siblings of autistic children (autism siblings), few studies have considered the school context.
Aims: To explore group differences on two school-related self-reported outcomes for autism siblings and siblings of non-autistic children: sense of school belonging, and academic self-concept. Data on self- and parent/carer-reported behavioural and emotional problems were also collected.
Methods and procedures: 65 autism siblings and a comparison group of 57 siblings of non-autistic children aged 11–16 years completed questionnaires measuring sense of school belonging, academic self concept, and behaviour problems. 73 parents in the autism sibling and 67 parents in the comparison sibling group completed the behaviour problems measure.
Outcomes and results: Autism siblings reported significantly lower school belonging and academic self-concept, and had significantly poorer self- and parent- reported behaviour problems. When controlling for demographic variables and internalising and externalizing behaviour, robust sibling group differences on academic variables remained.
Conclusions and implications: Autism siblings reported poorer school-related outcomes and increased behavioural difficulties relative to siblings of non-autistic children. There was wide variation in autism siblings’ outcomes, highlighting the importance of taking an individualised and contextualised approach to understanding the varying needs of autism siblings.

Gregory, A., Hastings, R. & Kovshoff, H. (2020) Academic self-concept and sense of school belonging of adolescent siblings of autistic children. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 96, [103519]. DOI: 10.1016/j.ridd.2019.103519

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Keys to engagement: A case study exploring the participation of autistic pupils in educational decision‐making at school (2019)

Authors: Chantelle Zilli, Sarah Parsons and Hanna Kovshoff
Published: 2019
Publication: British Journal of Educational Psychology

Background: the UNCRC (1989) established the importance of listening to children’s views globally. In England, seeking the views of pupils with special educational needs and disability about their education, and involving them in decision-making, has been mandatory since 2015. Autistic children’s views and experiences are particularly underrepresented in this context.
Aims: to provide a detailed, exploratory analysis of practices that enable autistic pupils to participate in educational decision-making; and to generate new knowledge about pupil participation in a school context, using the Framework for Participation (Black-Hawkins, 2010) as an analytical frame.
Sample: Four male pupils aged 11-15, with autism spectrum diagnoses, and 11 staff members from a specialist, independent school took part in this case study.
Methods: Observations were made of pupils in lessons, and pupils completed a photo-voice activity focusing on where they felt ‘most listened to’ in the school. Staff members participated in semi-structured interviews.
Results: A range of practices supported pupils’ participation in everyday decision-making, underpinned by a respectful and positive culture led by the senior management team. The focus was on what learners can do, and how they make decisions to facilitate achievement. Pupils and staff developed mutually respectful relationships, within which boundaries were negotiated and compromises offered. Flexibility through decision making was provided within the timetabling and content of the curriculum. Pupils’ special interests and expertise were valued as ‘keys’ to supporting their engagement.
Conclusions: These insights provide a tool for reflection by educators and Educational Psychologists for considering how they might promote the participation of autistic pupils in different educational contexts.

Zilli, C., Parsons, S. & Kovshoff, H. (2019) Keys to engagement: A case study exploring the participation of autistic pupils in educational decision‐making at school. British Journal of Educational Psychology doi:10.1111/bjep.12331

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The Role of Peers in the Development of Social Anxiety in Adolescent Girls: A Systematic Review (2019)

Authors: Leanne Pickering, Julie A. Hadwin and Hanna Kovshoff
Published: 2019
Publication: Adolescent Research Review 

Pathways to social anxiety often reflect a set of complex and interacting factors that include both intrinsic and environmental factors. Theoretical models of social anxiety have highlighted that children and adolescents’ peer experiences can increase risk for social anxiety. This systematic review explored the role of peers in the development of social anxiety in adolescent girls. It aimed to identify peer-related risk factors (i.e., peer acceptance, peer attachment, friendship quality, peer support, and victimisation) that place adolescents at risk for social anxiety, and to highlight those that are specific to girls. The findings showed that while low peer acceptance was significantly associated with increased social anxiety for boys and girls, limited close friendships, negative friendship experiences and relational victimisation were highlighted as risk factors specific to girls. The review suggested that researchers might usefully start to develop frameworks that capture generic, as well as gender-specific risk for social anxiety in adolescence. These will enable the development of prevention and intervention methods to support girls at increased risk and that focus on improving the quality of peer relationships.

Pickering, L., Hadwin, J.A. & Kovshoff, H. The Role of Peers in the Development of Social Anxiety in Adolescent Girls: A Systematic Review. Adolescent Res Rev (2019) doi:10.1007/s40894-019-00117-x

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Dyslexia, Literacy Difficulties and the Self-Perceptions of Children and Young People: a Systematic Review (2019)

Authors: Rosa Gibby-Leversuch, Brettany K. Hartwell and Sarah Wright
Published: 2019
Publication: Current Psychology

This systematic review investigates the links between literacy difficulties, dyslexia and the self-perceptions of children and young people (CYP). It builds on and updates Burden’s (2008) review and explores how the additional factors of attributional style and the dyslexia label may contribute to CYP’s self-perceptions. Nineteen papers are included and quality assessed. Quantitative papers measured the self-reported self-perceptions of CYP with literacy difficulties and/or dyslexia (LitD/D) and compared these with the CYP without LitD/D. Qualitative papers explored the lived experiences of CYP with LitD/D, including their self-views and how these were affected by receiving a dyslexia diagnosis. Results suggest that CYP with LitD/D may be at greater risk of developing negative self-perceptions of themselves as learners, but not of their overall self-worth. Factors found to be relevant in supporting positive self-perceptions include adaptive attributional styles, good relationships with peers and parents, and positive attitudes towards dyslexia and neurodiversity. In some cases, CYP with LitD/D felt that others perceived them as unintelligent or idle; for these CYP, a diagnosis led to more positive self-perceptions, as it provided an alternative picture of themselves. There is a need for further research to explore the impact of attributional style and the potential for intervention, as well as CYPs’ experiences of diagnosis and the associated advantages or disadvantages.

Gibby-Leversuch, R., Hartwell, B.K. & Wright, S. (2019) Dyslexia, Literacy Difficulties and the Self-Perceptions of Children and Young People: a Systematic Review. Current Psychology https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-019-00444-1

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The Impact of Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope (PATH) for Children and Young People (2019)

Authors: Henry Wood, Karen O’Farrell, Caroline Bjerk-Andersen, Cate Mullen, and Hanna Kovshoff
Published: 2019
Publication: Educational Psychology in Practice

This small-scale research project investigated the impact of a Person-Centred Planning (PCP) tool – Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope (PATH) – with children and young people (CYP) with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities in mainstream settings. Semi-structured interviews were used to explore the perceived impact of the PATH process for three secondary-aged male students, three parents and the member of school staff who conducted the students’ PATH. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data, which resulted in four main themes: usefulness of the graphic, positive effects, child-centeredness, and possible barriers to successful implementation. PATH was described as having a variety of useful benefits, such as increasing CYP’s confidence and motivation. In addition, barriers to successful implementation of PATH were identified by participants, which in turn may limit its impact. In particular, families and children identified that they would benefit from receiving additional information and guidance about the process before the meeting to maximise its utility.

Wood, H., O’Farrell, K., Bjerk-Andersen, C., Mullen, C. & Kovshoff, H. (2019) The Impact of Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope (PATH) for Children and Young People. Educational Psychology in Practice, DOI: 10.1080/02667363.2019.1604323

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The Emotional Literacy Support Assistant (ELSA) Programme: Can you develop an evidence base for an adaptive intervention? (2019)

Authors: Leanne Pickering, Joanne Lambeth and Colin Woodcock
Published: 2019
Publication: DECP Debate

This article considers different aspects of the Emotional Literacy Support Assistant Programme. Specifically, it critiques the evidence base for the intervention and discusses issues relating to the adaptability of the programme..

Pickering, L., Lambeth, J. & Woodcock, C. (2019) The Emotional Literacy Support Assistant (ELSA) Programme: Can you develop an evidence base for an adaptive intervention? DECP Debate, 170, 17-22.

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Exploring the Impact of Nurture Groups on Children’s Social Skills: A Mixed-Methods Approach. (2019)

Authors: Larissa Cunningham, Brettany K Hartwell & Jana Kreppner
Published: 2019
Publication: Educational Psychology in Practice

Nurture Groups (NGs) are a short-term, psychotherapeutic intervention aiming to provide reparative attachment experiences for children within an educational setting (Boxall, 2002). The social skills of 16 children (aged between 6.0 and 9.75 years) were assessed through teacher ratings and children’s self-report to hypothetical and challenging social situations. Thematic analysis was also used to explore six children’s experiences and perceptions of NG intervention on their social skills. Over time, children attending NGs used significantly more socially appropriate responses. Teachers’ ratings of children’s social skills also improved, approaching statistical significance. In their interviews, children suggested that they enjoyed attending NGs and that this helped them improve their social skills. However, they reported challenges engaging with peers outside of the NG, particularly in the playground. Implications for practice include the need to identify how practitioners can help to facilitate the generalisation of children’s developing social skills beyond the NG context.

Cunningham, L., Hartwell, B. K. & Kreppner, J. (2019) Exploring the Impact of Nurture Groups on Children’s Social Skills: A Mixed-Methods Approach. Educational Psychology in Practice, DOI: 10.1080/02667363.2019.1615868

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The hypothesised female ASC phenotype: Implications for research and practice (2017)

Authors: Henry Wood & Bonnie Wong
Published: 2017
Publication: Educational Psychology Research and Practice

There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that the behavioural manifestation of autism spectrum condition (ASC) differs between males and females, and there may be a female-specific phenotype of the condition (Lai, Lombardo, Auyeung, Chakrabarti, & Baron-Cohen, 2015). However, current conceptualisations of ASC have been developed predominately from samples of males, meaning our understanding of the condition may be male-biased (Kirkovski, Enticott, & Fitzgerald, 2013). Consequently, ASC in females may be under-diagnosed because current assessments are based on a male-specific manifestation of the condition (Mandy et al., 2012). This paper begins with a review of qualitative literature exploring the experiences of females with ASC. Building upon identified themes, quantitative research is reviewed to ascertain whether there are sex/gender differences in four areas of the hypothesised ASC female phenotype. Preliminary evidence suggests there may be sex/gender differences in ASC, but more research is needed to fully substantiate this conclusion.

Wood, H., & Wong, B. (2017). The hypothesised female ASC phenotype: Implications for research and practice. Educational Psychology Research and Practice, 3(2), 50–58. Available at: https://www.uel.ac.uk/schools/psychology/research/educational-psychology-research-and-practice/volume-3-no-2-2017

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Objective structured professional assessments for trainee educational psychologists: an evaluation (2017)

Authors: Sandra Dunsmuir, Cathy Atkinson, Jane Lang, Amy Warhurst & Sarah Wright
Published: 2017
Publication: Educational Psychology in Practice

Objective Structured Professional Assessments (OSPAs) were developed and evaluated at three universities in the United Kingdom, to supplement supervisor assessments of trainee educational psychologists’ placement practice. Participating second year students on three educational psychology doctoral programmes (n = 31) and tutors (n = 12) were surveyed. Scenarios, developed with experienced practitioners, were considered authentic and relevant. Tutor feedback indicated that the marking scheme was a good basis for judgements, but required further calibration and standardisation. Strengths and limitations relating to authenticity of scenarios and practical arrangements were identified. Students considered OSPAs to be a valid assessment of communication and perspective-taking skills, although some found them to be anxiety provoking. Levels of authenticity and complexity were deemed appropriate, although there were concerns over time allowed and how the assessment criteria were interpreted. The discussion highlights how OSPAs address issues relating to assessment reliability by improving objectivity, reducing bias and providing uniformity to student assessment experiences.

Dunsmuir, S., Atkinson, C., Lang, J., Warhurst, A. & Wright, S. (2017) Objective structured professional assessments for trainee educational psychologists: an evaluation. Educational Psychology in Practice, 33(4), 418-434, DOI: 10.1080/02667363.2017.1352490

Reinforce, reframe or remove? What should psychologists do with diagnostic labels? (2017)

Author: Klair Norman
Published: 2017
Publication: Assessment and Development Matters

Over the past 50 years, the range of diagnostic labels has relentlessly expanded, through iterations of psychiatric diagnostic systems like DSM and ICD, underpinned by a massive medicalisation engine, criticised for overpowering alternative interpretations and discourses (Solvag, 2007). As a result, there has been a startling increase in the number of individuals labelled as having a disorder or disability (Frances & Batstra, 2013). This has led to much debate over the utility and validity of diagnostic labels. For some, labels are seen as desirable commodities, enabling more timely and effective services. Others argue that labels work against the inclusion agenda by positioning the problem ‘within-person’, stigmatising diversity and further marginalising those with difficulties. Surrounded by this controversy, psychologists are faced with the dilemma of deciding how to shape their own professional choices and actions. This article considers arguments for three possible options.

Norman, K (2017) What should psychologists do with diagnostic labels? Assessment and Development Matters. 9(4), 7-10.

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