Supporting Schools in Responding to Extra-familial Harm: An Exploration of the Educational Psychologist's Role Within a Contextual Safeguarding Framework

  • Brooke Allen

Student thesis: Doctor of Educational and Child Psychology


The role of the educational psychologist (EP) in relation to child protection and safeguarding is debated and difficult to define. A proposed extension of the child protection system through a contextual safeguarding approach offers an opportunity to reconsider the EP role with a focus on supporting schools to develop practice frameworks that can guide professionals in recognising and responding to extra-familial harm. Through a Critical Interpretive Synthesis reported at paper one, a systematic literature review examined the EP role in relation to child protection and safeguarding as it has been conceptualised over time within the research base. Twenty-four papers (published between 1988 and 2019) across multiple areas of child protection and safeguarding work were included. Reported through paper two, an empirical investigation looked at the ways in which EPs, experienced in complex safeguarding, apply psychology in their practice. Three semi-structured interviews and a follow-up workshop, reported at paper three, were undertaken to explore the EP role in addressing extra-familial harm, and how it might be developed in schools through a contextual safeguarding approach. Analysis presented through the systematic literature review suggests that changing legislative and socio-political climates have resulted in a shift within the research base from ‘thinking about doing’ towards ‘thinking about thinking’, where a safeguarding agenda is prioritised and there is less focus on child protection. The empirical investigation suggests that an extension of the child protection system to include responses to extra-familial harm mean the EP is ideally positioned to support schools in developing frameworks for practice. Links to theory and practice, and implications for future research are considered along with the application of psychology to local contexts and service development processes. Finally, following an exploration of the concepts of evidence-based practice and practice-based evidence and their implications for practitioner psychologists, a dissemination strategy for sharing findings with participants and the wider EP community is proposed.
Date of Award31 Dec 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorCaroline Bond (Supervisor) & Philippa Grace (Supervisor)


  • educational psychology
  • child protection
  • safeguarding
  • child sexual exploitation
  • contextual safeguarding

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