The use of solution focused approaches by Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators (SENCos) and school staff in supporting pupils with Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties (BESD): A Collaborative Action Research Approach
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Phase one: Children and young people (CYP) who have been identified in school as experiencing behavioural, emotional and social difficulties (BESD) and who present with challenging behaviour are commonly offered interventions as a supportive strategy. Responding to challenging behaviour in school settings may vary between schools and typically may be reflected in the behavioural policy of the school. The question arises as to whether supporting a CYP with BESD and responding to the challenging behaviour they may present, is being done in a consistent manner, or whether the two are distinctly considered as an approach to “managing needs” as they arise. This phase of the CAR approach explored staff views and experiences on supporting and responding to CYP who experience BESD. I sought to explore the current practice of staff members (SENCos, teachers and TAs) so that insights could be gained on how the needs of CYP with BESD are being met in schools. Through a series of semi-structured and focus group interviews with the staff, themes from responses revealed interesting findings regarding staff perceptions relating to the emotional needs of CYP and the impact of a diagnosis and parental anxieties. The teaching assistants’ valuable contribution to supporting CYP experiencing BESD as well as class teachers expressing how challenging behaviour impacts on their self-esteem were also key findings in this study. The salient themes have been discussed in detail with reference to psychological theory, as well as implications for phase two. Phase two: The use of solution focused approaches (SFAs) in educational practice is on the increase, being implemented in a range of contexts. Originally based on solution focused brief therapy (SFBT) (de Shazer, 1985), emphasis is placed upon the solutions and in thinking about the future, steering away from talking about the past and the problem. This paper describes the second phase of the CAR approach. The aim of this phase was to use SFAs with SENCos who participated in phase one of this study. As the Trainee Educational Psychologist (TEP) working within the two learning communities, I facilitated and supported SENCos on implementing SFAs. They did this firstly in relation to their own practice, and secondly with another member of staff (a teacher or a TA) for supporting a CYP identified as experiencing BESD and challenging behaviour. The procedure involved the SENCos attending three sessions which took place between September 2014 and February 2015. Following each session the SENCos were assigned a task, typically involving them to use SFAs on their own practice as well as with other staff members. I visited each SENCo following the sessions to support them in discussing their reflections as well as during the meeting with the other members of staff they intended to support. The final session involved a group evaluation, in which experiences were shared and a plan was formed in preparation of the next cycle of the action research approach. Data collection included semi-structured interviews with each SENCo, a group evaluation as well as an analysis of the SENCos’ individual reflections (accounts kept throughout the study), using thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke, 2006). Higher order themes were then grouped according to context, mechanism and outcome themes, which draws upon elements of realistic evaluations (Pawson and Tilley, 1997). The findings revealed insights into the enabling factors as well as challenges encountered by the SENCos. Implications for future research in this area are also discussed.
DEdPsy in Educational, Child and Community Psychology