How do staff in a post-16 college co-construct social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs in their setting? A discourse analysis

Devereux, Suzanne (2017) How do staff in a post-16 college co-construct social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs in their setting? A discourse analysis. Professional Doctorate thesis, Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust / University of Essex. Full text available

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In the past three years, the Educational Psychologist (EP) profession has undergone significant developments as a result of the revised Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Code of Practice (Department for Education, 2014). Two specific changes outlined in the SEND Code of Practice underpin the purpose of this research. The first was the change in terminology from Behaviour, Emotional and Social Development (BESD), to Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH), as one of the four broad categories of identified SEND. The second change was the extended age range of which the SEND Code of Practice now relates to: 16-25 years. The aim of this research was to explore how college staff co-constructed SEMH needs in their setting, to offer a valuable insight as to how EPs can best support similar settings in the future. Existing literature highlighted an absence of EP research on SEMH needs in post-16 education, or how college settings conceptualise SEMH needs. This study used a Discourse Analysis approach to explore how participants in a focus group (6 staff members in a sixth form college) co-constructed SEMH needs through their discourses, and a social constructionist epistemology underpinned the approach to this study. The identification of dominant and suppressed discourses illustrated variation in the staff members’ talk, suggesting the difficulties and dilemmas that arose when co-constructing a term such as SEMH. Emphasis placed on various discourses of SEMH was seen to impact on practice, highlighting the importance in identifying dominant and suppressed discourses of SEMH in educational settings. The college setting was seen to hinder and support SEMH needs simultaneously, and contrasts between disempowering and empowering students and staff to manage SEMH needs were explored. The emotional energy required to work with adolescent students was highlighted, and the extent to which discourses of pathologising students with SEMH needs functioned to defend against social anxiety, was also explored. The role of reflexivity throughout the research process, strengths and limitations of the study, and implications for EP practice were discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Additional Information: Thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the Professional Doctorate in Child, Community and Educational Psychology awarded by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust in association with the University of Essex
Uncontrolled Keywords: Professional Doctorate in Child, Community and Educational Psychology, Edpsych Updates
Subjects: Learning & Education > Educational Psychology
Learning & Education > Learning & Education in Psychology
Learning & Education > Special Needs Education
Department/People: Children, Young Adult and Family Services

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