Emeritus Professor Tom Billington
C.Psychol, MEd, MSc, PhD, FBPsS
School of Education
Emeritus Professor of Educational and Child Psychology
Full contact details
School of Education
2 Whitham Road
- Research interests
As Professor Emeritus Tom continues to work extensively with young people, their families and schools. The focus of his research, writing and professional practice continues to be on young people's wellbeing and safeguarding, both with Local Authorities and the Family Courts. His on-going international partnerships include work with colleagues in the USA and India.
Tom’s research is located in the Cluster for Critical Psychology and Education in the School of Education and also the iHuman group in the Faculty of Social Sciences. In his research, Tom looks to:
- conduct research which supports the emotional wellbeing and mental health needs of young people
- work and research with, not on children and young people, their families and schools, utilising narrative, discourse analytic and psychodynamic approaches
- engage with philosophical, political and social constructionist discourse
- invoke ‘three scientific distinctions’:
- between the diagnosis and the child;
- between a knowledge of children generally and our interpretations of the child before us;
- between any descriptions of the child we construct and the descriptions that the child might potentially construct for themselves’ (Billington, 2006, p.158).
- utilise ‘five critical questions’:
- How do we speak of children?
- How do we speak with children?
- How do we write about children?
- How do we listen to children?
- How do we listen to ourselves (when working with children)? (Billington, 2006, p.8).
- Critical Educational Psychology. Wiley-Blackwell..
- Working with Children: Assessment, Representation and Intervention. SAGE Publications Ltd.
- Children at the margins: Supporting children, supporting schools. Trentham Books.
- Separating, Losing and Excluding Children. Taylor & Francis.
- Conditions for mental health in education: towards relational practice. British Educational Research Journal, 48(1), 95-119. View this article in WRRO
- Theoretical Pluralism in Transcultural Research: Chinese People Constructing Selves in the UK. Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 35(2), 778-794.
- Psychological assessments of young people in family courts: relationality, experience, representation and the principle of “do no harm”. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 18(1), 1-22. View this article in WRRO
- Between category and experience: constructing autism, constructing critical practice. Educational Psychology in Practice, 35(2), 184-196.
- View this article in WRRO Critical educational psychology: To what extent can (or should be) the Discourse Unit work for practitioners?. Annual Review of Critical Psychology, 13, 1-15.
- Educational inclusion and critical neuroscience: friends or foes?. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 21(8), 866-880. View this article in WRRO
- ‘Just deal with it’: neoliberalism in dyslexic students’ talk about dyslexia and learning at university. Studies in Higher Education, 42(8), 1358-1372. View this article in WRRO
- The discursive construction of dyslexia by students in higher education as a moral and intellectual good. Disability & Society, 30(8), 1225-1240. View this article in WRRO
- Constructing Critical Resources for Research and Professional Practice with Young People: Feeling, Thinking, Learning, and Neuroscientific Narratives. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 10(2), 174-188.
- 'When they're making breakfast they'll talk...': Narrative approaches in the evaluation of Nurture Groups. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 10(3), 318-331.
- Working with children: psychologists at the boundaries of knowledge and experience. The Psychology of Education Review, 33(2), 3-11.
- Working with autistic children and young people: sense, experience and the challenges for services, policies and practices. DISABIL SOC, 21(1), 1-13.
- Psychodynamic theories and the ‘science of relationships’ (Bion): A rich resource for professional practice in children’s services. Educational and Child Psychology, 23(4), 72-79.
- Developmental psychology and you. BRIT J EDUC PSYCHOL, 73, 599-600.
- Children, psychologists and knowledge: A discourse-analytic narrative. Educational and Child Psychology, 19(3), 32-41.
- Autism: Working with parents, and discourses in experience, expertise and learning. Educational Psychology in Practice, 16(1), 59-68.
- Feminist questions, educational psychology and difference. Educational and Child Psychology.
- Discourse analysis: acknowledging interpretation in everyday practice. Educational Psychology in Practice.
- Sex differences in student estimations of female and male student teacher interactions. Research in Education.
- The national and international growth in Qualitative research within the field of educational psychology In Hobbs C & Hardy J (Ed.), Using qualitative research to hear the voice of the children and young people (pp. 1-13). Leicester: The British psychological society.
- Education, Psychology: Change at Last? In Parker I (Ed.), Handbook of Critical Psychology (pp. 231-239). London: Routledge.
- Towards a Critical Relational Educational (School) Psychology In Corcoran T (Ed.), Psychology in Education (pp. 113-128). Rotterdam: SensePublishers.
- Educational Psychology In Willig C & Stainton-Rogers W (Ed.), The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research in Psychology (pp. 472-488). London: SAGE.
- Research group
Tom has supervised to completion over 50 personal Doctoral students in Psychology and Education, UK and international, including most recently:
- Meng, C. (2022) Constructing play and the relational self: Chinese parents' narratives of parent-child relationships in the early years (PhD).
- Alexandra Poll (2019): Building blocks of emotional attachment: Understanding the development of emotional intimacy between Israeli secular Jewish mothers and their children (EdD)
- Muno Abdi (2017): Storying selves in turbulent times: Exploring four young Somali men's experiences of identity and belonging through self-representing narratives (without corrections) (PhD)
- Yijia Zuo (2017): Narratives of complementarity and transformation: Chinese young people constructing selves in a transcultural context (UK) (PhD)
- Rob Begon (2016): Reconstructing the dominant discourse of an empathy deficit in autism: Adopting a Foucauldian perspective towards ‘insider’ accounts (DEdCPsy)
- Harriet Cameron (2015): Critical dyslexia: The discursive construction of dyslexia in higher education (PhD)
- Paulann Grech (2014): The therapeutic alliance in mental health discourse: A politico-critical analysis of knowledge and power (PhD)
- Cameron, H. and Billington, T. (2020) Developing a psychosocial model of mental health for schools: Perspectives from educational psychologists. Research England. £8,617
- Billington, T., Fogg, P., Emerson, L-M., Gibson, S. (2017) Evaluation of the Sheffield Healthy Minds Framework (HMF) for Schools. Sheffield City Council. £49875. URMS no. 152285
- Billington,T. and Overton, P. (2016) Attention and behaviour: Transforming achievement and social inclusion following primary-secondary school transition. ESRC (1+3) PhD White Rose Collaborative Studentship (in partnership with Sheffield City Council). £73,229
- Billington, T. Williams, A., Abdi, M. and Lahmar, J. (2015) Evaluation of the emotional well-being mental health service for schools. Sheffield City Council. £24334. URMS no.145254
- Farrell, P. (Manchester) and Billington, T. (2013) Evaluation of the Nurture Group Network. Nurture group Network. £46,000
- North of England Education Conference (2013) Mind, brain, community: Developing resilience, inspiring resilience. Co-organizer. Sheffield City Council, University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University c.£143,000
- Billington, T. (2012) Exploring young Somali men’s experiences of identity and belonging. ESRC (1+3) PhD White Rose Collaborative Studentship. £73,658
- Teaching activities
Tom guided the expansion of Educational Psychology at Sheffield for several years and our programmes now attract well over 300 students and trainees - practitioners, researchers and policy-makers from many countries across the globe (e.g. psychologists, social workers, teachers, health professionals).
As Professor Emeritus, Tom continues to be involved in the professional training of Educational and Child Psychologists, teaching and examining at the University of Sheffield but also at other Universities in the UK and globally.
Tom’s personal teaching interests focussed on young people’s emotional well being and mental health, specifically critical approaches to child development including attachment, autism, child safeguarding and neuroscience in education. He has also taught and supervised research on post-graduate programmes in child development in southern Europe, south-east Asia and the Caribbean.
He has been external examiner for both professional training and research Doctoral programmes in Educational and Child Psychology both in the UK and internationally (e.g. the Tavistock Clinic, London, many Universities across the UK, Australia, Canada, Holland, New Zealand and USA).
- Professional activities and memberships
British Psychological Society
- Chartered Psychologist (C.Psychol) and Fellow (FBPsS)
- Member: Division of Educational and Child Psychology; Qualitative Research Section; Experiential and Consciousness Section; Registered Psychological Test User
- Chair and lead author of BPS Position Statement on Childhood Autism (2006)
- Committee member and contributing author to BPS Position Statement on Child Safeguarding (2003; 2007; 2014) for the Professional Practice Board
Selected keynotes and conference papers (Psychology / Education)
- Billington, T. (Sheffield), Bird, L. (Waikato) and Corcoran, T. (VUM) (2015). Righting the ship: Psychology’s Passage Through Education. Invited Seminar Series funded by the Australian Association for Educational Research and New Zealand Psychological Society (Wellington, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth)
- Papers presented at conferences in Australia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Trinidad and Tobago, USA, including:
- International Academy of Law and Mental Health, Prague;
- International Congress of Psychology, Capetown;
- International Society for Theoretical Psychology, Thessaloniki also Copenhagen;
- International School Psychology Association, Dublin;
- TAOS Institute, New Mexico
- Billington, T. (2010) Psychological assessments of young people: At the boundaries of knowledge and experience. 29th. Annual Vernon Wall Lecture. Psychology of Education Section Annual Conference. British Psychological Society
- Universities of Birmingham, Exeter, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, York, Tavistock Clinic
Other keynotes / invited lectures
- British Psychological Society
- Economic and Social Research Council
- Association of Educational Psychologists
- University of San Francisco Center for Child and Family Development
- Merseyside Family Justice Council
- Children’s Media Conference
- Nurture Group Network
- Yorkshire & Humberside Educational Psychology Conference
- North-west Educational Psychology Conference
- South-west Educational Psychology Conference
Editorial Boards and Reviewing
ESRC Peer Review College; NIHR; Wellcome Trust; Irish Research Council, Portuguese Faculty for Science and Technology (FCT), Canadian Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)Disability & Society; Educational and Child Psychology; International Journal of Inclusive Education; International Journal of Nurture in Education; Journal of Early Childhood Research; Annual Review of Critical Psychology;
Departmental reviewer, Professorial appointments adviser (UK and international)
- Visiting Professor, University of Malta
- Registered practising educational psychologist with the Health Care Professions Council
- Northern Circuit of the High Court: Register of Expert Witnesses: Psychological assessments in care proceedings (e.g. adoption, attachment, disabilities and a range of child protection issues)
- Associate Fellow, Critical Institute
- Associate Fellow, TAOS Institute (USA)