Evaluation of an ACE-informed Whole-school Project Development

  • Elzbieta Sparling

Student thesis: Doctor of Educational and Child Psychology


The link between the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and trauma on child development and life outcomes is well established. Research also suggests that ACE/trauma-sensitive whole-school multi-tiered approaches can effectively support recovery and promote resilience. However, more research is needed about what such programmes would look like and how effective they are. In Paper One, an aggregative ‘what works’ systematic literature review provides an analysis of teachers’ narratives and perspectives on the implementation of whole-school programmes that support social emotional and mental wellbeing of pupils. The review aims to identify facilitators and barriers to successful implementation from the perspectives of the recipients of those programmes. Paper Two provides a qualitative evaluation of the endeavours to introduce and embed an ACE-informed whole-school (ACE Informed Schools [AIS]) programme in schools in one local authority (LA) in the North West of England. Semi-structured interviews with the project team (PT) and four headteachers and a focus group with the PT were used to gather information about the implementation process. Data were analysed using qualitative content analysis. Paper One findings reveal that factors related to programme characteristics, professional identity, organisational factors and implementation process can facilitate or hinder effective implementation. Findings suggest that adopting a collaborative approach and engaging school leaders in implementation activities can create a sense of empowerment, build community capacity and mobilise resistant staff. Paper Two outlines how issues related to planning, training content and sufficiency of support influenced implementation. Findings from Paper One and Paper Two led to recommendations related to the AIS project management. Findings from both papers emphasise the importance of programme-context fit, involving school staff in planning outcomes and implementation activities and careful consideration of outcome measures to evidence the impact. Following the exploration of evidence-based practice and practice-based evidence a dissemination strategy for sharing findings with participants, schools and the wider educational psychology (EP) community is proposed. Proposed methods of dissemination include presentations at research site, EP conferences and workshops with school professionals and publications in journal articles.
Date of Award31 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorKevin Woods (Supervisor) & George Thomas (Supervisor)


  • barriers
  • facilitators
  • qualitative
  • implementation
  • whole-school
  • process evaluation

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