Booth, Carol Marion (2009)
Ed.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
Children’s Centres are a relatively new development. There is little published research available about their impact on improving outcomes for children and their families and about the role of the educational psychologist (EP) in Children’s Centres. This thesis describes an action research project that was run in Children’s Centre in the North East of England. The project explored the use of a drop-in service that was offered to parents and carers attending the Children’s Centre. An EP provided this service and the purpose of the drop-in was for parents or carers to be able to speak confidentially to an EP about concerns or issues in connection with any aspect of their child’s development or behaviour. The drop-in service was run intermittently over a two-year period and approximately forty parents and carers attended. Data to inform the research aims and questions were collected using a variety of approaches including: semi-structured interviews, records of discussions, questionnaires, research diary, audio and video recordings. The audio recording was analysed using thematic analysis and the other data were analysed by using patterning to look for themes or issues from the various data collected. Reflective discussions during the action research process facilitated opportunities for triangulation and respondent validation. The drop-in evolved from one where the EP waited for parents to visit them in a designated room to one where the EP attended the groups run by the Children’s Centre staff. The latter model increased the uptake of the service. Another important factor in parents’ engagement with the service was identified by staff at the Children’s Centre. This was the need to develop trust between the parent and the EP. Although, initially, the service was for parents, the staff at the Children’s Centre requested access to the drop-in service. A solution focussed framework was found to be a useful tool to guide the structure of the drop-in. A wide range of topics were brought to the drop-in reflecting Sheppard’s et al’s (2007) discussion about the types of issues upon which the parents were seeking support when they attended Children’s Centres. The study acknowledges that the drop-in is only one type of service that might be provided by an EP and that generalisations to other Children’s Centres might not be appropriate or necessary. However, the study demonstrates the way in which an action research methodology helped to develop a service based around the needs of the community, and facilitated the provision of a drop-in service that was valued by parents and staff in the Children’s Centre.
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