A mixed methods investigation of the impact of attachment theory on the policy and practice within early years and primary education in a Scottish Local Authority

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Current Scottish Government policy for the children’s workforce promotes a Common Core of Skills, Knowledge and Understanding of attachment theory, allied to individuals’ self-awareness of their own attachment profile. Within this context, the four research studies reported in this thesis investigate the impact and outcomes, for early years and primary education practitioners in a large Scottish local authority, of training and coaching in attachment theory and practice. A critical realist epistemology informs a mixed methods approach whereby both qualitative and quantitative research methods are used to enrich data collection, analysis and interpretation. After applying audit methods in Study 1 to explore the understandings of the theory within a wide Children’s Services workforce context, semi-structured interview techniques are used in Study 2 to undertake a more in-depth exploration of the views of attachment theory and practice of a representative sample of education practitioners. The research literature on adult learning and implementation science informs Study 3, which reports the researcher’s development of a training programme, promoting knowledge of attachment theory and skills in attachment-informed practice. Two primary schools, each with a nursery class, received the training. In Study 4, one of the schools received coaching and mentoring over the academic year following the training. Using a collaborative inquiry approach, outcomes and impact of participation on outcomes for pupils, changes in practitioner practice, and policy and procedure changes at an establishment level were investigated. Benefits of the implementation of scalable training for the local authority were identified. This research extends the literature on the impact of attachment theory and attachment-informed practice in early years and primary education settings and contributes to the literature on effective training methods for education practitioners. Concluding comments discuss both the impact of the research study at the strategic level of the local authority, and areas for future investigation.
Date of Award14 Sept 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsNHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde
SupervisorJim Boyle (Supervisor) & Louise Brown Nicholls (Supervisor)

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