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Mr David McLean-Thorne

Child & Educational Psychologist


 +44 (0) 1392 725985

 North Cloisters NC110


North Cloisters, University of Exeter, St Luke's Campus, Heavitree Road, Exeter, EX1 2LU, UK


For over 30 years the focus of my work has been the development and delivery of multi-modal therapeutic approaches and personalised learning programmes to meet the individual needs of children and young people with acute/severe mental health and/or medical conditions, low incidence special educational needs and complex behaviour, emotional and social difficulties.

Prior to taking up my current post in April 2019, I have contributed to the professional training course in educational psychology at the University of Exeter as a consultant professional and academic tutor (2011-2019) and as a visiting lecturer (1993-2011).


Academic: Cert. Ed., Cert. S.S., Dip. Art ED., DipPsych, M.A. (Psych), M. Ed. (Psych).

Professional: CPsychol, CSci, AFBPsS

Other: International Affiliate of the American Psychological Association (APA)

Member of the Society of Pediatric Psychology (American Psychological Association - Division 54)


From 1977-1990 I worked for the DHSS (now DHSC) and then for Whitstone Head Educational Trust  in specialist provision (secure and non-secure co-educational residential centres) as a Specialist Teacher, Treatment Co-ordinator and Head of Treatment. 

I have worked as a Child and Educational Psychologist since qualifying in 1992 (University of Exeter).

From 1998-2014, I combined my role as a Child and Educational Psychologist with that of being a Principal of a Special School. The dual role enabled the school to develop specialist educational, social care and therapeutic support services (including outreach) for children and young people with acute/severe mental health and/or medical conditions, low incidence special educational needs and complex behaviour, emotional and social difficulties.

Outside of my teaching role at the University of Exeter, I continue working as a Child & Educational Psychologist providing:

  1. Confidential casework-based and/or individual case-based consultation to practitioners to help them meet emotional and psychological well-being/mental health needs of clients (children, adolescents and young adults) with acute/chronic mental health/medical conditions.
  2. Direct psychological support services to meet the psychological needs of children, adolescents and young adults with mental health/medical conditions and their families.
  3. Online and telephone based consultation services to support children, adolescents and young adults cope with the challenges of their mental health issues. 
  4. Emergency online and telephone based consultation services to support children, adolescents and young adults with acute needs and their families.
  5. Field research and consultation as a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Clinical Practice Network (GCPN). (The GCPN was established as a core mechanism for the development of the classification of mental and behavioural disorders in the next version of WHO’s International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11)).
  6. NICE clinical guideline development and NICE clinical guideline implementation support, respectively, as a Registered Stakeholder Contributor and as an Adoption & Impact Programme Reference Panel Member . 



Research interests

Advances in medicine and child healthcare, combined with a raft of central government policy on the health/wellbeing/mental health role of educational settings, have resulted in an increasing number of children with significant mental health needs and/or significant medical conditions attending mainstream educational provision (Early Years, Schools and Colleges).

There is a statutory and non-statutory expectation that this population will have their educational and developmental needs met by well informed, effective support arrangements. Government guidance suggests that these arrangements should include psychological support, ranging from consultative work at local authority level through to work undertaken directly with individual children and those who support them (i.e., parents/carers, staff in their setting, etc).  Educational psychologists are uniquely positioned at the interface of education (including SEN), health/mental health and social care services to undertake this role – through the provision of  comprehensive psychological and emotional wellbeing services, beginning in the preschool years and continuing through to early adulthood (up to 25 years of age).



Clinical Case Scenario Contributor to: NICE (2012). Self-harm: longer-term management. Clinical Case Scenarios. London: NICE.  (Clinical Case Scenario 3: Jenni, pages 25-37)

Clinical Case Scenario Contributor to: NICE (2011). Autism: recognition, referral and diagnosis of children and young people on the autism spectrum. Clinical Case Scenarios. London: NICE.  (Clinical Case Scenario 6: Lenny, pages 44-48)

Paper: Specific Learning Difficulties: An Alternative Perspective? School Psychology International 15(1):69-88 · February 1994 DOI: 10.1177/0143034394151005


Research projects

My current focus is on the enhancement of the health professional role of Educational Psychologists through the development and delivery of a ‘paediatric psychology in education’ strand for the DEdPsych course.

Research networks

World Health Organization Global Clinical Practice Network

External Engagement and Impact

External positions

World Health Organization (WHO):

Member of the World Health Organization Global Clinical Practice Network - Participation in the Internet Based Field Studies for ICD11 Mental and Behavioural Disorders as a member of the WHO Global Clinical Practice Network  2016 –

  1. Disruptive Behavior and Dissocial Disorders
  2. Bodily Distress Disorders
  3. Study on Mental, Behavioural and Related Disorders
  4. Study on Symptom Patterns in Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder
  5. Disorders Due to Addictive Behaviours and Impulse Control Disorders


National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (UK):

Adoption & Impact Programme Reference Panel Member 2015 -

External Reference Group/Member of the Implementation Support Panel 2011 - 2015.

Contributed to NICE Clinical Guidelines for:

  1. Autism spectrum disorders: recognition, referral and diagnosis in children and adolescents;
  2. Self-harm: longer-term management)


Registered Stakeholder Contributor 2007 –

Current Guidelines/Standards:  

  1. Consultation on the NICE Indicator Process Guide 2019 
  2. Children and young people with disabilities & severe complex needs: integrated health & social care support & service guidance (Feb 2021)
  3. Babies, children and young people's experience of healthcare (April 2021)
  4. Self-harm in over 8s: short- and long-term management and prevention of recurrence (Jan 2022)
  5. Social and emotional wellbeing in primary and secondary education (May 2021)


Previous Guidelines/Standards: 

Contributed to NICE Clinical Guidelines for:

  1. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: diagnosis and management
  2. Autism spectrum disorders: recognition, referral and diagnosis in children and adolescents
  3. Social anxiety disorder: recognition, assessment and treatment of social anxiety disorder
  4. Autism spectrum disorders: management of autism in children and young people)


European Institute of Public Administration (EIPA):

Research and Development Partner – Common Assessment Framework (CAF) for Quality Management. 2009-2014


National CAMHS Support Service:

Regional Trainer and Development Partner – ‘Everybody’s Business’ (Tier 1 National CAMHS Training Programme), 2008-2011.  


Royal Albert Hall (England):

Consultant and Project Partner – ReFrieze Project 2008 - 2011


Teachers Development Agency and Children’s Workforce Development Council, England:

Research and Development Partner – National Occupational Standards (NOS) based integrated multi-disciplinary staff induction model


Department for Education and Skills/Department for Education (UK):

'Achievement and Attainment Tables' stakeholder partner for Value Added Performance pilots 2003-2005. 

Contributed to:

  1. All Approved Qualifications at Age 15 Pilot (2003):
  2. Key Stage 2 to GCSE/GNVQ Value Added Pilot (2003):
  3. Pace and Progression Pilot (2004): and
  4. Key Stage 4 Contextual Value Added Pilot (2005).


Cornwall County Council (UK):

Training Partner - Developing and delivering social, emotional and behaviour difficulties modules on annual 'Behaviour Support Training' courses for Special Educational Needs Coordinators/Teachers and Behaviour Support Staff in Cornwall 1994 -1997


Institute of Contemporary Arts:

Exhibition design for Carnival Exhibition (Notting Hill Carnival Committee, GLC and Arts Council) 1977-1978



My main teaching interests are in the areas of:

  • Providing trainee educational psychologists with the knowledge, understanding, skills and foundations for practice to promote the development and delivery of high quality, needs responsive, holistic, psychological, therapeutic and educational support services for children, adolescents and young adults with mental health needs.
  • Utilising a ‘paediatric psychology in education’ approach to develop trainees’ knowledge of the potential breadth of their health/mental health professional's role as an educational psychologist, through an understanding of:
  1. The possible linkages between educational/psychological/health/social needs of the young person with or at risk of developing behaviour, emotional, social and/or mental health difficulties.
  2. The possible need to address contributory environmental factors (including health inequalities and socio-economic status)
  3. The potential of education/health/mental health/multi-agency services and family systems to address these needs and difficulties.
  4. The central role educational psychologists can play in facilitating 1, 2 and 3
  5. How they can use their skills and competencies, as both educational psychologists and health professionals, to support their role.
  6. How they can use their knowledge of learning, lifespan development, health conditions, bio-psycho-social influences, and educational, social care and healthcare systems to inform their practice.

The main focus of my teaching is on three strands of needs and three strands of practice parameters:

3 strands of needs:

  • Low incidence special educational needs related to complex mental health, behavioural, emotional, and social needs.
  • Health, well-being and care needs related to mental health needs arising from adverse childhood experiences, including child abuse/early trauma, chronic health conditions, pervasive developmental disorders and other syndromes.
  • Complex mental health needs arising from a wide range of mental health conditions, including comorbid disorders, very early/early onset psychosis, acute, chronic and complex developmental trauma, etc.

3 strands of practice parameters:

  • Meeting and staying abreast of statutory requirements.
  • Meeting and staying abreast of national/international standards and expectations, including those contained in professional guidelines and non-statutory guidance from the DfE, DHSC, Ofsted, NICE, HCPC, BPS, WHO and other governmental and non-governmental bodies.
  • Utilising (where appropriate) and staying abreast of key research findings and new evidence-based interventions/approaches.

Supervision / Group

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