Dr David Colley

Associate Lecturer in Child Development and SEN/Inclusion

School of Education

David Colley


Dr David Colley is an Associate Lecturer in Child Development and Special Educational Needs/Inclusion having led the National Award for Special Educational Needs Coordination (NASENCo) at Oxford Brookes for five years (2015-2020).

David holds a B.Sc (Hons) in Psychology, a B.Ed (Hons) with QTS, a Ph.D. in SEND and is also a member of the Higher Education Academy.

Currently, David acts as a supervisor for students completing MA Education dissertations and Ed. D theses at Oxford Brookes and undertakes external examiner roles for Ph.D. students at a range of other UK institutions including University of Reading and the University of Strathclyde.

Oxford Brookes works in partnership with the charity SEBDA (www.sebda.org) to deliver a Post Graduate Diploma in Social Emotional and Mental Health Difficulties for teachers, social care and health professionals. David is the course content adviser for this PG Dip and is also a tutor on the course.

David is a teacher of children with SEN and his career in education has included teaching children with autism and complex learning needs in both primary and secondary schools and his specialism is the support of learners with social, emotional and attachment needs. David spent five years working as the head of primary Pupil Referral Unit before managing a successful nurture group initiative on the Isle of Man for a further five years. During that time, David completed his Ph.D. into the development of nurture groups in secondary schools resulting in the publication of the Boxall Profile for Young People (Bennathan, Boxall and Colley 2010).

In 2017 David co-edited the publication ‘Attachment and Emotional Development in the Classroom’ (JKP London) which was designed as a course text book for trainee teachers and professionals working in the area of social, emotional and mental health needs.

From 2016-19 David was Chair of the Social Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties Association (SEBDA), a national charity that supports children and young people with emotional needs and the professionals who work with them. This role included leading the National Executive, organising national conferences and representing SEBDA at network events.

In 2018, David was invited to join the DfE Steering Group that refreshed the Mental Health and Behaviour guidance for schools (DFE 2018) and he has recently contributed to the Times Educational Supplement (2021), the Nasen Connect magazine (2021) and the SEBDA 1 in 10 publication on SEND issues around nurture, policy and practice (2021).

Teaching and supervision

Modules taught

  • SB50UND Understanding SEMH
  • SB50MAN Managing SEMH
  • SB50NEU Neuroscience and SEMH
  • SB51COM Complex SEMH
  • SB51RES Research Methods
  • SB51ADV Advanced Intervention SEMH

The course content for the SEBDA-Brookes Post Graduate Diploma in Social Emotional and Mental Health Difficulties has been created by Dr Colley and he has responsibility for updating and reviewing all six Modules on an annual basis. He is part of the course Tutor team and supports a cohort of Distance Learners with their studies and assignment submissions. For more information about the PG Dip, see PGDip in Social, Emotional and Mental Health Difficulties at Oxford Brookes University.

Doctoral Supervision

David supervises Doctoral students at Brookes in the area of social, emotional and mental health needs. Recent areas of doctoral study have included a focus upon Compassion in Education

Master Theses Supervision

David supervises Post graduate Masters Theses students at Brookes in the area of social, emotional and mental health needs. Recent dissertations have included a focus upon the impact of Covid-19 on secondary school students, the quality of EHCP outcomes and reducing school exclusion.

External Examiner Roles

David has been invited to join the Doctoral examination teams as External Examiner at the University of Strathclyde, the University of Reading, Bath Spa University, York University and Dundee University. Recent thesis topics have included the impact of the SEND Code of Practice (2015) on Special School provision, the development of Emotion Coaching in primary schools and the transfer of learning from secondary nurture groups into the mainstream classroom.


Dr Colley is a research consultant at the Mulberry Bush Organisation in Oxfordshire. His current research projects include the:

  • Mulberry Bush Nurturing Schools Project (2021-2023), and
  • Mulberry Bush School Emotional Security Project (2021-2023).

Research impact

Colley, D., & Seymor, R. (2021). An evidence based guide to opening a successful secondary school nurture group. The International Journal of Nurture in Education, 7, 56-70.

Times Educational Supplement ‘Tes focus on...nurture groups in secondary schools’ (2 April 2021)

Nasen Connect Magazine ‘Nurturing Schools: how school leaders can optimise relationships’ (Sept 2021)

SEBDA 1 in 10 - Nurture Groups in Secondary Schools (Issue 5 Spring 2021)


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Professional information

Memberships of professional bodies

  • DFE Steering Group 2017/2018 - advising on the refresh of Mental Health and Behaviour in Schools (2018)
  • SEBDA Chair 2016-19 (see www.sebda.org) - Leading National Council meetings, planning and delivering National Conferences, managing EBD Journal, reporting to trustees.
  • Editorial advisory board: Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties journal
  • Editorial advisory board: International Journal of Nurture in Education. 
  • Editorial advisory board: International Journal of Emotional Education


  • 2022 – Mulberry Bush Research Conference, UK
  • 2021 – Oxfordshire Secondary Head Teachers’ Conference, UK
  • 2019 - European Network for Social Emotional Competence, Budapest Hungary
  • 2018 - Attachment Research Community, Birmingham UK - Keynote presentation
  • 2017 - SEND Conference, Oxford Brookes University UK 
  • 2017 - ENSEC Conference, Sweden
  • 2017 - SEBDA Conference, Newcastle UK
  • 2017 - Buckinghamshire SEN Conference UK


  • Mulberry Bush Organisation, Oxon UK 2022
  • Violence Reduction Unit, London UK 2021
  • University of Algarve, Portugal 2021
  • Chiltern Way Academy, Bucks UK 2020
  • English Schools Federation, Hong Kong 2020
  • Times College, Nanjing, China 2020
  • Department for Education, London UK 2018