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Volume 2, No. 1




Cite as:
Thomas, M. (2016). Editorial. Educational Psychology Research and Practice, 2(1), 1. Available at:

Dr Miles Thomas
School of Psychology, University of East London
Page 1




This paper reviews the literature on the Tree of Life (ToL), a psychosocial support tool underpinned by narrative therapy. Originally developed to support vulnerable children in East and Southern Africa, ToL draws on the metaphor of a tree, taken from Zimbabwean folklore and collective narrative practice to support groups and communities to overcome difficult life experiences. The aim is to inform practitioners of the key elements of the approach and to inform educational psychology practice.

Cite as:
Lock, S. (2016). The Tree of Life: A review of the strengths-based narrative approach. Educational Psychology Research and Practice, 2(1), 2–20. Available at:

Samantha Lock
Trainee Educational Psychologist University of East London
Pages 2-20


Previous research suggests that young children enjoy taking risks in their play and that risky play offers many benefits. To gain further insight into the child’s perspective, the present study explored young children’s views about risk-taking play, employing a sample of eight children aged four years old from four different early years settings in one local authority in England. Since research outside the UK has identified categories of risk-taking play, this was used as a starting point to inform for the current small-scale study. Semi-structured interviews with the children were undertaken with a series of photographs depicting different types of play used to engage the children in discussion. Data from each of these interviews were subjected to thematic analysis. Findings revealed that children had a variety of reasons for choosing to participate in risk-taking play, such as it being scary or exciting. Children’s choices were mediated by their awareness of safety issues with each child articulating the boundaries around whether, where and how they might choose to engage in a risk-taking play activity.

Cite as:
Tytler, K. (2016). ‘It's just because it went really high and we go wheeeee…!’: Young children’s views on risk-taking play in their early years setting. Educational Psychology Research and Practice, 2(1), 21–32. Available at:

Kate Tytler (née Hilton)
Essex Educational Psychology Service
Pages 21-32


Those who work at schools with children identified as having social, emotional and behavioural difficulties (SEBD), work in considerably challenging, stressful and undesirable environments (Shuttleworth, 2005). Taking this into consideration, this study focuses on staff motivation, in an attempt to pinpoint what motivates individuals to pursue and commit to a career in this field of work.

Staff members working with children identified as having SEBD at a therapeutic primary school in the UK were interviewed (N = 7). Semi-structured interviews were prepared and carried out inside the school premises in a private space. Interviews were recorded using an audio recorder and were analysed using thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006). Self-determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 2000) was applied to the data and referred to as a framework.

Five key themes were developed from the data, three of the key themes were deemed to be most relevant to the research question: ‘What motivates staff to work at a therapeutic school for children identified as having emotional and behavioural difficulties?’ These were:

Emotional connection: Occasions when participants spoke of feeling deeply connected to others. This connection was either with children through relatedness, or with colleagues (team spirit).

A sense of feeling good: This was summarised as pride, enjoyment, appreciation, a sense of feeling right/suited, feeling valued, and even ‘the challenge’ and ‘hard work’.

Responsibility: Participants felt driven by a sense of responsibility, for example comparisons were made to being like parent-figures to the children.

These three themes were considered to be the key forms of motivation identified from this particular sample of staff members.

Cite as:
Wilding, A. (2016). What motivates staff to work at a therapeutic school for children identified as having social, emotional and behavioural difficulties? Educational Psychology Research and Practice, 2(1), 33–48. Available at:

Alex Wilding
The Institute for Arts in Therapy and Education (IATE)
Pages 33-48


Special Educational Needs (SEN) legislation has recently undergone the largest reform in over a decade. Whilst several key changes have been widely discussed, the shift in terminology to describe children’s behavioural difficulties has received less attention. A greater emphasis has been placed on encouraging school staff and professionals to see beyond the observable behaviour and to give consideration to possible underpinning factors. However, the explicit focus on identifying undiagnosed learning difficulties, speech and language difficulties or mental health issues may serve to encourage a paradigm shift towards a more ‘within-child’ rather than interactionist perspective of undesirable behaviour. This paper will discuss this possibility, and with specific reference to speech and language difficulties, it will consider how through their five core functions educational psychologists can seek to maintain an interactionist perspective of undesirable behaviour.

Cite as:
Cunningham, L. (2016). Maintaining an interactionist perspective of undesirable behaviour: What is the role of the Educational Psychologist? Educational Psychology Research and Practice, 2(1), 49–58. Available at:

Larissa Cunningham
Trainee Educational Psychologist, University of Southampton
Pages 49-58


Teachers and parents sometimes turn to educational psychologists when they have concerns about the sexual behaviour of children and young people. This paper draws upon developmental psychology to describe ways in which sexual development has been conceptualised. This highlights that sexual development is best seen on a continuum that ranges from the developmentally appropriate to children that molest. From this analysis educational psychologists are encouraged to think about the different professional responses that are most appropriate and to see the importance of being able to move along a graded response from reassurance to concern.

Cite as:
Talbot, L. (2016). Understanding sexualised behaviour in children. Educational Psychology Research and Practice, 2(1), 59–66. Available at:

Dr Lana Talbot
Psychologist, Department of Education - Bermuda
Pages 59-66


Book Reviews

Robyn Steward


This review is of a resource called “Strengths Cards” (which can be purchased from, amongst other providers, Positive Insights; These cards are based on the 24 human signature strengths first identified in Martin Seligman’s book (2002) Authentic Happiness.

Cite as:
Hussain, T. (2016). Strength Cards. Educational Psychology Research and Practice, 2(1), 67–69. Available at:

Dr Tamara Hussain
HCPC Registered Educational Psychologist
Pages 67-69