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“There’s a long way to go.” Educational psychologists’ perceptions of their role in supporting schools to improve outcomes for trans students.

15 October 2019

Author: Emma Sagzan


Whilst the prevalence of the trans community is difficult to estimate, the number of children and young people seeking medical support for struggles associated with gender identity has increased significantly over the last 5 years (The Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, 2018). Trans* students are reportedly more likely to be victimised in school environments and more likely to experience poor academic and mental health outcomes (Stonewall, 2017; Nadin, Peel, Tyler and Rivers, 2015; Yunger., Carver, and Perry, 2004).

Educational Psychologists (EPs) are arguably well placed to support schools to improve outcomes for trans students. They are able to work at a whole school, group and individual level helping schools develop policy and curriculum, providing training, consulting with staff members and other professionals and offering direct interventions to students (Fallon, Woods and Rooney, 2010).

Limited research was found considering the role of EPs with the trans population, the majority of which was not conducted in the UK. This project sought to extend the existing evidence base and discover EPs perceptions of their role in supporting schools to improve outcomes for trans* students.

A relativist and constructivist ontological and epistemological position was taken. 8 practicing EPs working in an outer London, Local Authority were interviewed and a thematic analysis was conducted. This illuminated 6 interconnected themes.

The first theme, the ‘EP role with the trans community,’ encompasses participants’ views as to how EPs may work to improve outcomes for trans students. Their role was felt to be influenced by (as well as have influence on) four other themes:

  • ‘awareness, thought and discussion around gender identity’
  • ‘knowledge and uncertainty’
  • ‘beliefs and attitudes influencing practice’
  • factors that add ‘complexity’ to a situation

These 5 themes were considered grounded within a 6th theme, ‘contextual factors,’ describing individual, local and national factors that may change over time.

Findings are discussed in relation to previous research, the current national and local context and theoretical frameworks including Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) Ecological Systems Model and psychodynamic theory. Strengths, limitations and directions for future research are outlined and potential implications for EP practice are discussed. Finally, self-reflections on the research journey producing this thesis are presented.

Link to full paper coming soon.


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