This project focuses on the theory of attachment and how appropriate attachments and expressive language may be developed in pupils with Emotional, Social and Behavioural Difficulties through structured collaborative play in the special school environment.
Attachment theory is a concept by John Bowlby that theorises the importance of early bonds and nurture for later development. Research towards this project found that crucial neurological connections are not made if a nurturing environment is not provided during early development and that, in later life this can impact on learning due to an inability to complete cognitive learning tasks.
The intervention focused on a group of Year 9 pupils within a specialist ESBD school who display insecure attachments alongside their diagnosed learning difficulties. Pupils completed structured, collaborative group play sessions three times per week and weekly one to one sessions over a period of 6 weeks, with a week’s interval half way through. During these sessions pupils were encouraged to display appropriate behaviours and language to show appropriate attachments. The intervention met the Welsh Government priorities of Literacy, Reducing the impact of poverty and Additional Learning Needs.
During the intervention observational data was collected on specially designed forms in order to collect quantitative and qualitative data towards research question 1. Semi-structured interviews were used with pupils and semi-structured questionnaires used with colleagues to gather data related to question 2 and 3.
Data analysis showed some effectiveness of play as a tool for developing appropriate attachments but in order to fully discover its true impact a longer implementation is needed. This was similarly found when the expressive language data was analysed. However, behavioural data suggests initial improvements, which gives hope that pupils’ attachments and educational well-being can be enhanced through play.
Overall this project showed the importance of developing the whole child in order to enable them to achieve academically.
© Sarah Edwards January 2016