Psychology in the honours

Ella Rhodes reports.

Three British Psychological Society members have been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to dyslexia, psychology in education and family therapy. We spoke to two of them about their achievements and the future of their work.

BPS Fellow Professor Margaret Snowling, Professor of Psychology and President of St John’s College, Oxford, was awarded a CBE for services to science and the understanding of dyslexia. Snowling, also a Fellow of the British Academy, said she was astonished and very pleased in equal measure by the award. ‘For the past four decades my research has focused on children’s reading and language impairments, and I have always been passionate about translating research into practice. Most recently, the work of the group headed by Charles Hulme (UCL) and myself has been concerned with developing and evaluating theoretically motivated interventions for children in schools, particularly those at social disadvantage.’  

She added: ‘We have recently been involved in a field trial of our Nuffield Early Language Intervention programme, delivered by partners from the charity I CAN and evaluated by the Institute of Fiscal Studies with funding from the Education Endowment Foundation. Even with researchers at arm’s length, the intervention has been found to be effective as a way of improving children’s oral skills in the early years.’ Snowling said in the future she would like to see a shift in the educational policy agenda away from phonics to the oral language skills that underpin reading.

Chartered Psychologist Professor Susan Gathercole, director of the Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Medical Research Council, was awarded an OBE for services to psychology and education. She said she had been astonished and touched to have been nominated for the honour.

Gathercole said one of her proudest achievements to date was setting up a new research clinic for children with problems in attention, learning and memory. She added: ‘All credit for this goes to the excellent clinic team headed by Joni Holmes and Francesca Woolgar whose dedication has made it possible.’

And what for the future? ‘At the CBSU we will be continuing to do research on cognition and brain processes that is driven by theory and uses the best contemporary methods with typical individuals as well as those with disorders of neurodevelopment, genetics, neurodegeneration, mental health and acquired brain damage,’ she said. Where possible, Gathercole and colleagues will be developing theory-based cognitive interventions for such disorders and improving diagnostic methods. She added: ‘Our programme is fully embracing the new world of opportunities provided by big data, consortia science, and remote data collection.’

Finally, Professor Ivan Eisler, Emeritus Professor of Family Psychology and Family Therapy, from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Clinical Academic Group in the IoPPN, received an OBE for services to family therapy. His research interests include the evaluation of psychological treatments particularly for eating disorders, substance misuse, depression and self-harm. His other areas of interest are family therapy, family interaction research and attachment.

A fourth psychologist – Christine Liddell, Professor of Psychology at Ulster University – received an MBE for services to tackling fuel poverty in Northern Ireland. Also rugby union referee Nigel Owens, who was a popular after-dinner speaker at the recent BPS Annual Conference, received an MBE for services to sport. 

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