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Title: Promoting emotional well being and inclusion for children identified with Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties in mainstream primary schools : an evaluation of a psychotherapeutic approach (Thrive)
Author: Cole, Michaela Jane
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2012
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Area of focus/rationale for the study: This study is an evaluation of an intervention, named Thrive, which is designed to promote the emotional development of children with Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties (EBD). The focus is to investigate the extent to which Thrive is effective in improving certain emotional and behavioural outcomes for children as well as exploring the experiences of those who are involved with the programme. The study is set out in two papers. Paper one assesses changes in pupil emotional well being over time using two subscales designed to measure specific aspects of resiliency, namely, ‘emotional reactivity’ and ‘sense of relatedness’. It also uses an assessment to measure changes in emotional and social skills which are considered important in order for pupils to engage in learning in a mainstream classroom environment (readiness to learn). Paper one also looks at the possible association between the Thrive training and staff attitudes towards pupils with EBD. Paper two explores, in depth, the experiences of the Thrive approach from the perspective of a small sample of school staff, pupils and parents. This process of exploration serves to better understand the outcomes from paper one by identifying a number of factors which may contribute to the successful or unsuccessful implementation of Thrive in a particular educational context. Context, Background and Research Objectives: Broad labels of ‘Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties’ (EBD) and’ Behavioural Emotional and Social Difficulties’ (BESD) tend to encompass behaviour which interferes with a child’s own or other’s learning; signs of emotional turbulence; and difficulties in forming and maintaining relationships. SEBD is used interchangeably with BESD (Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties) in policy documents and theoretical writing (Evans, 2010). Schools tend to use the term EBD and this will generally refer to children whose behaviour and emotions prevent them and others from learning to their potential (DCSF, 2008). For ease and consistency I will use the term EBD throughout this study. The Special Needs and Disability Act (2001) sets out the right for children with EBD to be educated in mainstream schools. Due to the disruptive impact on learning for self and others, this group of children have been cited as one of the most difficult groups to include (Evans & Lunt, 2002). Behaviour management continues to be high on the education policy and practice agenda in England and the rest of the UK. Schools are faced with the challenge of finding ways of ensuring children with EBD are included in the ordinary classroom with their peers and to ensure that the needs of this vulnerable group of children are adequately met. Alongside this, Government Policy (e.g. NICE Guidelines, 2007) now requires schools to promote the emotional well-being of children who exhibit signs of emotional and behavioural disturbance. There is a demand for evidence based approaches to support children with EBD in mainstream schools from which professionals, such as Educational Psychologists, can draw on in order to make positive changes (see literature review in Appendix B.9 for more details). Thrive is a trademarked programme developed by a multidisciplinary team named ‘Fronting the Challenge’ (ftc). The programme is described as a ‘dynamic developmental approach to working with vulnerable and challenging children whose behaviour interrupts their own and others learning’. The Thrive programme borrows from a range of research and theory around neuroscience, child development, attachment theory and the role of creativity and play (for example Sunderland, 2006; Hughs, 2004; Illsey- Clarke & Dawson, 1989; Stern, 2003). It can be described as a school based intervention which is informed by a psychotherapeutic model as it aims to support children by addressing core relational and developmental features (Evans et al., 2003). Similar to nurture groups, Thrive is based on the understanding that for a child to develop a healthy ability to adapt to his or her social environment they must have experienced a sensitive, responsive and caring relationship with a significant carer/parent (Stern, 2003; Sunderland, 2006). But additional to a nurture group approach, the intervention draws on a concept from Transactional Analysis (Berne, 1964; Levin, 1982; Illsley Clarke & Dawson, 1998) which assumes that a child moves through a number of clearly defined stages of emotional development. The Thrive approach uses a computer based assessment, which relies on pupil observations, to identify specific ‘interruptions’ in this development; and targeted relational experiences, i.e., experiences of being in relationship with another human being, are recommended to promote further development. This will be discussed in more detail within the introduction of this thesis. As part of a wave two pathfinder for the Targeted Mental Health in Schools (TaMHS) Project under DCSF, in 2009, Thrive training was delivered to staff working with children and young people in three learning communities within a local authority in the South West of England. This included staff from approximately forty schools (including primary schools, secondary schools, a PRU and a special school) as well as multi-disciplinary staff such as CAMHS, Educational Psychologists and Behaviour support staff. At the time of beginning this study, thirty eight primary schools within the local authority had already been trained in Thrive and were implementing the intervention with some of their pupils. There was much testimony from staff working with children and young people that the training was highly valued and influential on their professional practice. Furthermore, there were a number of claims suggesting that pupils involved in Thrive were experiencing a whole range of positive outcomes attributable to the programme. For example, that the most disruptive pupils were calmer and making fewer visits to the Head Teacher’s office; that emotionally vulnerable children had become more confident and more trusting; that attendance had improved; and that the number of fixed term exclusions had diminished. Although there were a small number of detailed case studies prepared by schools themselves, the claims were, in the main, based on anecdote. Where schools had made some attempt to measure the impact of Thrive the methodology lacked basic rigour and findings were susceptible to bias; pre and post measurements were very limited and control measures were absent in all cases. The project lead for TaMHS reported ‘emerging’ data in relation to reduced numbers of fixed term exclusions, reductions in referrals to other services and referrals for statutory assessment. However, the source of this data was also said to be unreliable. Despite all of this, a general positive ‘vibe’ about the intervention based on a melange of potentially unreliable evidence was persuasive enough for the local authority to consider further investment into the intervention. Further details of current evidence related to the impact of Thrive can be found in Appendix A.1. Objectives of this study: • To provide a more reliable understanding of the effectiveness of the Thrive programme in supporting children with EBD within mainstream primary schools. More specifically: - To find the extent to which Thrive reduces pupil ‘emotional reactivity’, improves pupil ‘sense of relatedness’ and improves ‘readiness to learn in a mainstream classroom’. - To find whether there is an association between the Thrive training and staff attitudes towards the inclusion of children with EBD in mainstream primary schools. • To explore how a small sample of pupils, parents and staff experience Thrive.
Supervisor: Richards, Andrew; Tunbridge, Margie Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Ed.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: EBD ; Emotional well being ; Therapeutic intervention ; Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties ; SEBD ; Inclusion in mainstream primary schools ; Thrive ; Evaluation of Thrive