Case study: Supporting social and emotional difficulties via the Pupil Premium

Written by: HTU | Published:

Colley Lane Primary School has worked with psychologists to develop interventions for Pupil Premium children, including a Nurture Suite, and to offer training for teachers. Ahead of presenting its work at a free CPD event, Kevin Gallagher explains more

Colley Lane Primary School is in Dudley in the West Midlands. It has 584 pupils on roll, with 20 per cent designated as having SEN (school action/statement), 21 per cent have English as an additional language (EAL) and nearly a quarter are eligible for free school meals. 

As part of the Pupil Premium spending in 2012/13, the school decided to use clinical psychology and educational psychology support.

The initiative involved one clinical psychologist and an educational psychologist being embedded within the school – providing full day support on a weekly basis. As well as interventions focused on developing relationships between the school and parents, and targeted training sessions for staff development, the psychologists were heavily involved with a targeted programme of support for a number of pupils in key stage 1 who were presenting with significant social, emotional and behavioural difficulties within the school environment.

Supporting social, emotional and behavioural difficulties

The teachers identified a group of key stage 1 pupils who they felt were struggling with the social demands of life in school. Six pupils were referred to educational psychologist Dr Gary Lavan for support. 

Dr Lavan worked directly with pupils and provided regular staff consultation, and developed a programme of support based around Cognitive Behaviour Therapy  (CBT) frameworks.

Dr Lavan explained: “One of the key factors in opting for such an approach was the identified need to develop the meta-cognition and self-regulation capacities of the pupils.

“CBT is a talking therapy. It has been proved to help with a wide range of emotional and physical health conditions in adults, young people and children. CBT looks at how we think about a situation and how this affects the way we act. In turn our actions can affect how we think and feel.” 

Teaching children strategies to motivate themselves and plan, monitor and evaluate their own behaviour is a well-proven, high-impact approach.

The model of support used at Colley Lane involves psychologists being embedded in the school team – based at the school on the same day every week. This helps to facilitate a collaborative approach with school staff; the psychologists regularly meet with teachers and support staff to discuss ongoing issues, and jointly develop profiles to help teachers create targeted interventions for each pupil. 

Through direct work and by using self-report questionnaires, the psychologists also work to incorporate pupil and parental voice into formulating strategies and developing proactive plans to help the children move forward. The educational psychologist also conducted a number of classroom and playground observations to gain further information regarding the children’s behaviour in various environments. 

Developing staff knowledge

The direct work with the teaching team consisted largely of staff consultation, where the educational psychologist was able to support staff in gaining a greater understanding of presenting difficulties and needs for the children in the group, and to inform class-based interventions and strategies. 

Inclusion manager Sarah Kennedy says she saw benefits in staff “confidence, understanding, and compassion”.

Additionally, the psychologists boosted the school’s capacity to make referrals to existing available therapies, such as their CBT therapist or nurture staff. 

Ms Kennedy notes that “as a direct result of having the psychologists on site on a weekly basis, our in-house CBT therapist’s role has grown exponentially over the last academic year”.

She continued: “It has gone from just one-hour per week to a full-time role with a full case load. Our CBT therapist has formal, regular supervision provided by the clinical psychologist and other less formal input on a weekly basis, all of which ensures her own best practice and self-care as a therapist.”

The school is keen to develop robust evidence-based interventions, and refers to tools like the Sutton Trust Pupil Premium Toolkit. 

This helps to develop the “behind the scenes” evidence of intervention work and demonstrate effective Pupil Premium expenditure. The Sutton Trust recognises that meta-cognition approaches, such as CBT, which help pupils to manage their own behaviour, have one of the highest rates of average impact, leading to an additional eight months of learning across the year. They describe such interventions as “high impact for low cost, based on extensive evidence”.

At Colley Lane, we use a “plan, do, review” cycle of work to support children and the school in working with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.

The direct work with pupils took a number of strands, including the educational psychologist working in situ, small CBT group focus work, undertaking observations, and other withdrawal from class to include assessment work in groups or individually. 

Measuring impact

Measuring the outcomes of support and intervention is vital for Colley Lane and the psychologists have helped the school to develop pre and post measures relating to the work with the children and staff.

Under the guidance of the psychologists, teaching staff completed a Boxall Profile for each pupil at two points in time. These profiles give accurate pre and post-analysis and are now used as part of the school’s monitoring of progress and change. 

The Boxall Profile provides a useful evidence-informed framework to help in the assessment process as well as providing practical strategies to support intervention with children struggling to cope in school who have social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. 

It is a quick and easy two-part checklist, which is completed by members of staff who best know the child. The profile consists of two sections – the developmental strand (which measures aspects of development in the pre-school years) and the diagnostic profile (which consists of items describing behaviours that inhibit or interfere with the child’s satisfactory involvement in school).

Initial Boxall Profiles indicated that the teachers who knew these pupils the best considered them to present with a range of significant developmental delays and considerable behaviours inhibiting successful engagement and involvement in school.

However, over the period of one term, teachers indicated that the pupils had made substantial progress, demonstrating greater development and fewer behaviours inhibiting progress in school. 

Ms Kennedy commented on the “robust” benefits to the school as a whole, including “fewer incidents particularly at times of transition and non-contact time; parental engagement; and Ofsted readiness”.


Following the initial intervention, the school has developed its own nurture suite to help the children from the group, as well as other key stage 1 pupils who were presenting with similar difficulties within school. 

Ms Kennedy added: “The psychologists are heavily embedded in our nurture work, and we have sought expert advice regarding the analysis of the children, and also best practice regarding phasing the children back into the mainstream classroom.”

The re-integration of pupils accessing the nurture suite into their main class groups on a full-time basis is now a key focus. The school’s lead nurture practitioner is NGN-trained (Nurture Group Network); the school now seamlessly embeds both psychological and NGN principles into the suite’s very own wave 1, quality first teaching.

  • Kevin Gallagher is a specialist in therapeutic care, a qualified social worker and managing director of CPA, a UK-wide provider of evidence-based psychological expertise for schools, children and families. The work at Colley Lane Primary was developed in conjunction with CPA. Visit

Free CPD Conference

CPA is running a free CPD event for schools entitled Attachment, Social Development and the Links to Learning: Practical Application of Psychological Support in Schools. The event will feature school case studies and examples of using Pupil Premium, including a workshop with Colley Lane Primary School. 

The event takes place on March 5 at The Westmead Hotel, Hopwood, South Birmingham. To book a free place or for more information, email or telephone 0161 834 4662.

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