An exploration of school-based 'ACE-informed' practice and the role of the educational psychologist

  • Bethany Shaw

Student thesis: Doctor of Educational and Child Psychology


Background: The term 'Adverse childhood experiences' (ACEs) refers to five specific traumatic events (sexual, emotional and physical abuse and emotional and physical neglect) and five chronic stressors (substance addiction, witnessing abuse, parental imprisonment, family member mental illness and caregiver disappearance through abandonment or divorce). Evidence shows that exposure to ACEs often has a negative impact on development and mental health. Supporting children with ACEs has been shown to reduce the potential impact on later life outcomes, and schools and educational psychologists have been identified as having an important role in providing this support. Methods/Participants: Paper One is an evaluative systematic literature review exploring the ways in which children of imprisoned parents in the UK can be supported in school. Systematic searching of research databases and relevant third sector organisation websites identified 11 papers to be included in the review. Paper Two explores the development of ACE-informed practice within two UK local authority educational psychology services, through use of focus groups and interviews with educational psychologists. Analysis/Findings: Synthesis of the identified papers in Paper One highlights ways in which children of imprisoned parents can be supported in schools at a systemic, familial and individual level. Paper Two discusses the rationale for and methods of ACE-informed educational practice, and its facilitators and barriers. Conclusion/implications: Paper One discusses implications relevant to schools, educational psychologists and future research. Paper Two considers implications for educational psychology practice, including potential use of a risk and reliance framework, the importance of consistent implementation of approaches, and future research. Paper Three explores evidence-based practice within educational psychology. Paper Three includes a discussion about a dissemination strategy for the findings outlined in Papers One and Two and evaluates the potential impact of these.
Date of Award31 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorKevin Woods (Supervisor) & Adam Rumble (Supervisor)


  • Adverse childhood experience
  • ACE
  • educational psychology
  • resilience

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