President’s column; Lifetime Achievement Award; the Research Digest on the radio; and more

President’s column
Peter Banister
Contact Peter Banister via the Society’s Leicester office,
or e-mail: [email protected]

A highly successful Annual Conference has been and gone; many thanks to all who helped to make this happen, and to all who came to Harrogate.

Well I (and you!) have survived the year, and very interesting it has been too; thanks to all who got in touch, many of whom I had not seen over the years, including old colleagues, fellow and past students. Thanks to all I have met in meetings, conferences or via some form of social media; the year has certainly reminded me of the enormous community that we are all part of. Thanks for all the support everybody has given me, especially my fellow Trustees, the Leicester office, colleagues in the Branches, Divisions and Sections, which has made my task much easier and helped the year go easily.

Time has flown past, and I have tried to take up as many of the invitations that I was presented with that I was physically able to fulfil. These have sent me all over the country and to a number of overseas destinations. To some extent at times I could have done even more; I am sure that the new President will be delighted to attempt to take on as many invitations as you can ply him with (and I as Vice President for the year would be more than happy to fill in for him, if necessary).

I would recommend (if you have the time) taking up a role with the Society; I am sure you will find it (as I have over more than 20 years in all in serving in one role or another within the Society) immensely rewarding, not least because it opens up vast networks of interesting people and possibilities.

 For me, the highlights have been some of the interesting conferences that I have been to, the myriad of people met, the feeling that I could help with some of the inevitable problems that will occur with such a complicated Society as we have. I have been struck by the enthusiasm of our students and young people for our discipline, and for the dedication of our professionals and academics, pushing forward the frontiers in terms of research and practice. There is a huge variety in what we do, and we should be proud of both The Psychologist and our Research Digest, which serve admirably to tell us some of what is going on in our diverse discipline. I have come to realise that at times there are many different interest groups, and the President must attempt to stay neutral; I must say that I have been alerted to some interesting controversies during the year.

To some extent a year is too short a time in which much can be achieved, especially in a member organisation that relies on volunteers, but I realise that there are good historical reasons for the current arrangements. Although the position is to some extent one of a figurehead I hope that my year as President has helped to lay yet another brick on a long road to the future; we have continued to make important changes in the Leicester office to help our future direction, we are revisiting our Strategic Plan, we are developing more of a public profile and influence, trustees have received some training, we are improving our international impact, we are continuing to ensure our financial stability, we have appointed new office staff at the director level and we are responding to the many changes that are going on all around us.

The future is always changing, and we do not always know what it may bring; I would suggest that we should remember our history and build on it. In this context I feel that I ought to mention in passing that my grandfather Harry Banister (who died before I went to university) was also a member of our Society and worked with Bartlett in Cambridge. What effect this may have had on me I know not. 

I am reminded of what erroneously (it apparently only dates from the 1930s) is called an ancient Chinese proverb (some say ‘curse’) – ‘May you live in interesting times’. This phrase appears frequently, including in Star Trek and in Terry Pratchett, and to paraphrase Robert Kennedy in 1966: ‘Like it or not, we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also more open to creative energy than any other time in history.’ The same is as true in 2013 as it was then. Talking recently to a colleague about engineering psychology, I realised how things had changed from the knobs, levers and dials of my undergraduate ergonomics course to human–computer interaction, including consumer electronic goods.

One of my favourite quotations comes from Neil Postman’s 1982 book The Disappearance of Childhood, where he says ‘children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see’. Just as children are a message we send into the future that we will know not of, the Society is embarking into futures we can only dream of (and as past visions of the future often demonstrate nothing more than variations on contemporary themes, these dreams are probably doomed to failure). We can only hope that those yet to come are able to build on what we have done.

I feel that Psychology is in good health, but we do need to do more to attempt to engage our students and young people, our academics and our practitioners. We can never please all, but it is our Society, and we all need to play an active part. I was intrigued to learn recently that only 1 per cent of our members are retired, whilst benchmark figures for other learned societies is 6.4 per cent; what might this be reason for this?

In terms of a homily at the end, I reflect that the year has flown by (which happens increasingly as one grows older), and my message to you is to seize the opportunities as they come your way; certainly initially never say ‘no’, but do try in addition to make those opportunities happen. Talk to others, do things together. Psychology has endless potential!

So in the immortal words of Douglas Adams ‘So Long and Thanks for All the Fish’, and over to Richard Mallows – I hope that the year goes well, Richard. I am looking forward to my year as Vice President (whatever that entails!).  

Lifetime Achievement Award
Dennis Child

Professor Dennis Child OBE FBPsS is to receive this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society’s Psychology of Education Board.

Described by one of his nominators as ‘a true educator who speaks directly to the student and always begins the educational encounter “where the student is at”‘, Professor Child has made a significant contribution to psychology applied to education over many years.

Professor Child said: ‘I was very surprised, but delighted to accept this prestigious and rare award. It was a fulfilling climax to many years of association with the British Psychological Society.’

Dennis Child was born in Cumberland in 1932 and after service in the Royal Air Force worked as a teacher in Yorkshire. While teaching he took a first degree in Physics, Zoology and Psychology and then in 1962 he moved to Leeds College of Education (a teacher training college) as a lecturer in physics and mathematics.

Here, already engaged in research into personality and school achievement, he was invited to transfer to the education department to teach psychology of education. He moved on to a lecturer’s post at Bradford University in 1967 before taking up professorial chairs at Newcastle upon Tyne and then Leeds, where he is Emeritus Professor of Educational Psychology.

A key event in his career occurred when Raymond Cattell invited him to work as a research fellow at the University of Illinois
in 1972–3. Together they embarked on a revision of Cattell’s motivation test and wrote a book on Cattell’s theory of motivation, Motivation and Dynamic Structure (Wiley, 1975).

Recalling this episode in his career, Professor Child said: ‘Ray Cattell was well into his sixties, but he was a workaholic as well as being keen to get necessary physical exercise. Walks in the park were always done with notepads and pencils at the ready. We were both sidestroke swimmers and, as good fortune would have it, I led with my left hand and Ray with his right. This meant we could swim facing each other and continue discussions about the current project. If that isn’t economy of effort, what is?’

Professor Child was editor of the British Journal of Educational Psychology from 1979 to 1984 and was general editor of the Blackwell series Theory and Practice in Education for a decade from 1981.
To mark his contribution to the profession a Festschrift entitled Directions in Educational Psychology, with contributions from 20 of his contemporaries in psychology, was published in 1998.

At Newcastle, Professor Child developed a keen interest in deaf education, particularly in promoting the use of British Sign Language, and chaired the Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People – now called Signature. Later he encouraged Leeds to establish its Advanced Diploma in the Education of Deaf Children and in 1996 he received an OBE for ‘services to the deaf’.

His interest in professions of which psychology is a component led him to serve on various national educational and examination committees for professions supplementary to medicine, his work there including the design of the DC Test for entry
to the nursing profession.

Outside psychology, Professor Child helped form the education and community unit of the London Festival Ballet (now the English National Ballet) and was instrumental in Leeds becoming the first British university to offer a degree of Bachelor of Performing Arts in Dance. In 1994 he published Painters in the Northern Counties of England and Wales to encourage the study of northern artists.


Postdoc conference bursaries

Seven successful candidates have been awarded bursaries as part of the Society's Postdoctoral Bursary Scheme. The scheme, run by the Research Board, makes conference bursaries available to support the attendance of UK psychology postdoctoral researchers and lecturers at any academic conference, either in the UK or internationally, relevant to the applicant’s work. The award winners are:
I    Lyndsay Hughes (Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London) – British Society of Gastroenterology Annual Meeting 2013, Glasgow
I    Helen Richards (University of Southampton) – 7th World Congress of Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies, Lima, Peru
I    Sarah Williams (University of Birmingham) – North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity Conference, New Orleans, USA
I    Andrew Jones (University of Liverpool) – British Association for Psychopharmacology Summer Meeting, Harrogate
I    Jennifer Murray (Edinburgh Napier University) – 15th International Conference on Human–Computer Interaction, Las Vegas, USA
I    Emma Sumner (Oxford Brookes University) – 16th International Graphonomics Society Conference, Nara, Japan
I    Caoilte O Ciardha (University of Kent) – 32nd Annual Conference of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Offenders, Chicago, USA

Each bursary consists of up to £150 (UK) or £300 (international) to contribute towards the costs of registration and travel to attend the full conference.
The Postdoctoral Bursary Scheme operates twice a year. The next round of applications will open in July with a deadline of 1 October.
See for more information

The future of A-level psychology

In April the Society published its briefing paper The Future of A-level Psychology. The authors of the briefing paper also presented a symposium at the Society’s Annual Conference to outline the findings of the paper and the recommendations. The document is the latest review in a longstanding involvement of the Society with policy making and teaching of A-level psychology. The project was led by the Society’s Standing Committee on Pre-Tertiary Education, Chaired by Phil Banyard of Nottingham Trent University.

The briefing paper raises five key issues: preparing students for higher education; perceptions of A-level psychology; variability in the current A-level curricula; practical work; and building the community of psychologists involved in psychology education. The paper also looks in detail at A-level curricula and forms the basis of the Society’s mandate in engaging with the DfE, Ofqual, the Joint Council for Qualifications and awarding bodies in the A-level reform and curriculum review, of which psychology is one of the first to be redeveloped. The Society is providing significant input to the consultation process.

Developed from a number of questionnaires and a two-day stakeholder focus session, participants developed a number of recommendations around the curriculum, whether A-level psychology is fit for purpose, transitions between A-level and higher education, and supporting teachers and teaching. The recommendations include a number of actions for the Society which will be taken forward in the coming months by the Standing Committee and the Psychology Education Board working in partnership with the Division of Academics, Teachers & Researchers in Psychology.

Copies of the report are available to download from the Society’s website Requests for hard copies and any other queries should be directed to the Society’s Policy Advisor (Public Engagement & Education) Kelly Auty ([email protected])

April saw the Society’s Research Digest, and its editor Dr Christian Jarrett, feature on BBC Radio 4’s All in the Mind. Dr Jarrett joined presenter Claudia Hammond to discuss recent Digest items.
Now in its 10th year and reaching a bigger audience than ever, the Research Digest is the Society’s awarding-winning blog providing original and authoritative reports on the latest psychology research papers. It aims to provide accessible, authoritative reports on psychological studies which are timely, novel, thought-provoking and relevant to real life.

Currently the Digest has 30,000 subscribers to its fortnightly
e-mail ?(subscribe via You can also follow the Digest on Twitter ( and Facebook (
Claudia Hammond was the recipient of the Society’s 2012 Public Engagement and Media Award. 

Cheltenham Science Festival

Using touchscreen technology to help people living with dementia, and the latest developments in sport psychology will both be discussed in sessions the Society is sponsoring at the The Times Cheltenham Science Festival in June.

On Tuesday 4 June cognitive psychologist Dr Tim Jones from the University of Worcester and Tim Lloyd-Yeates, founder of Alive!, a charity that provides interactive activity sessions in care homes across the South West, will explore how modern technology can improve quality of life and build bridges between generations.

A recent study by Tim Jones has shown that touchscreen technology, such as the iPad, can help to improve quality of life for people living with dementia. iPads can inspire creativity and reminiscence and also help improve communication with families and carers, leaving a positive emotional impact.

Later the same day, Marc Jones, reader in sport and exercise psychology at Staffordshire University, will look back at London 2012 and give the latest on research about enhancing sport performance using psychology alone.

The Society will also be running a stand in the exhibition area which will include the Origins exhibition on the evolution and impact of psychological science, and interactive exhibits the Society is developing with the University of Worcester.

See for more details

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