Private knowledge, public face: Conceptions of children with SEBD by teachers in the UK - a case study

David Armstrong, Fiona Hallett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The behaviours of children or young people in educational settings are a major cause for concern in the UK and internationally. Recent policy in the UK has stressed the impact of ‘poor’ behaviour upon teacher welfare and efficacy. Children or young people classified as ‘having’ SEBD (Social Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties) are a group whose welfare has elicited particular concern amongst educational psychologists (EPs), educators and policy-makers. This paper is an exploratory analysis of written accounts by 150 teachers about their professional experience and perception of children/young people presenting SEBD. Phenomenographic analysis of data suggested a set of identifiable personal-professional responses, disclosing an often troubled personalprofessional accommodation of tensions between policy and practice. Research literature exploring educators’ perceptions of children presenting SEBD is addressed in this context. A consideration of methodological issues is made, specifically those associated with phenomenography. A key recommendation of this paper is that EPs have an important role in helping teachers to develop positive, sustainable and psychologically-informed practice with individuals who present SEBD. The justification for this recommendation focuses upon the benefits of approaches that emphasise relationships in and around school rather than on behaviour per se. The need for comparative, international research on this issue is highlighted as is the need to recognise systemic connections between aspects of an educator’s perceptions of an individual presenting SEBD and aspects of their response in practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-87
JournalEducational & Child Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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