About us

Our Mission: Make Psychology Accessible To Everyone

What is Spencer3D?

Spencer3D is a joint venture between Learning 3D and Spencer Education, and develops tools specifically for schools, nurseries, parents and the workplace. We work internationally, with customers in the UK, Europe, the Middle East, and North America.

The background to Spencer3D

Spencer3D brings together a suite of online tools for the assessment and management of common mental health, learning and developmental problems in children and young people, as well as tools to help young people understand their attributes and skills which influence their learning behaviours.

Learning 3D are a team of educational entrepreneurs who have come through their shared belief in the power of education and the need for change to our existing education system. The company is a values-based organisation intent in democratising education, incorporating a blended approach, harnessing the power of learning technologies, with the very best face to face practice.

Spencer Education brings the vast experience of clinical pyschologist, Dr. Bryn Williams, and other health professionals in designing many of the tools in the Spencer3D toolkit.

The Spencer3D tools were developed in partnership with a multi-disciplinary team including Dr. Bryn Williams, Lead Clinical Psychologist, Carol Milnes, Educational Psychologist, Mary Cunningham, Occupational Therapist, Dr. Joanne Harrison, Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Stefan Peart, Clinical Psychologist, Anna Cartwright, Assistant Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Emma Peart, Clinical Psychologist, Jo Forrest, Educational Psychologist, Eleanor Walters, Education Consultant, Seda Mansour, Education Consultant, Sheena Wilson, Occupational Therapist, Deborah Coleman, SenCo and Shauna Walsh, Speech and Language Therapist.

Why we developed Spencer3D

In his role as a clinical psychologist, Dr Bryn Williams, working with children and young people, had the pleasure of visiting hundreds of schools to meet with teachers, pastoral care teams and of course, students. Over the years, Dr. Williams has visited approximately 760 in his 20 years of practice, from tiny, old schools tucked away in Cotswold villages to large, shiny new ones that looks like an office block on a business estate in north London.

One of the best things about going into schools is having the challenge of the unexpected. It usually comes with the preamble, "I know you are here about X but I wondered whilst you are here could I pick your brains about Y". The second part of the preamble is, "We’ve tried getting them help but they didn’t meet the threshold, we’ve tried CAMHS but they said no".

Along with like-minded colleagues in health, education and social care, Dr Williams set about building a tool which he felt would mimic the ‘X and Y’ conversation and one that would match up to any consultation he might have had with a teacher when he was working in CAMHS. In particular, he really wanted teachers and other professionals working in education to move away from ‘getting the label’, to believing that they could use their expertise and experience to problem solve. Dr Williams recognised that teachers often had little or no time, but in addition that they sometimes felt they didn’t have the skills, whilst also feeling passionately that mental health and child development was something for all of us.

The Spencer3D tools developed out of this and, by working with some amazing colleagues, were able to build a tool that was written for teachers, designed to accommodate the reality of busy school life, but also a resource that would help schools manage common mental health and developmental difficulties.

At the same time, Chris McShane was working in state secondary schools as a head teacher, faced with an assessment system that only took account of and rewarded what young people could remember on any given exam day. He started developing an assessment tool that focused on the attributes and skills (ASK) that young people demonstrate every day both in and out of school, and he combined this with a coaching and mentoring approach to learning.

After developing different iterations in different schools, each one refined from the previous, Chris met Dr. Williams and instantly saw the connection between the Spencer Education tools and the ASK tool, and the partnership was formed. The identity ‘Spencer3D’ came from the desire to focus on the whole child - offering tools that look holistically at every area of the young person, as well as providing those tools to parents, professionals and the young person themself.

Early in the process one of the Headteachers said that they had access to all sorts of things that told them ‘what the problem was’ but nothing that told them ‘what to do about it’. Spencer3D was built for teachers, SenCos, teaching assistant, pastoral care, and we are indebted to the many of them who gave us their feedback as we took the project forward.

Spencer3D is a tool that you access online, you set up a Student Profile, answer 15 minutes’ worth of questions about a student in primary or secondary school, you then generate a simple visual report of the student’s strengths and areas of difficulty. These areas of difficulty, such as panic or inattention, then come with a definition of what we mean and most importantly evidence-based recommendations about how you can make a difference. It is designed to be school friendly.

Spencer3D is on a mission. We are forever working on improving Spencer3D for primary and secondary schools. It has been so reassuring to get feedback from schools such as ‘it has been revolutionary’ and to hear that it is used routinely in managing mental health and developmental concerns with students. We are looking to move forward with input from schools. In response to requests, we have now developed Spencer3D Early Years, parent and young person versions.

More than getting the ‘right label’

Dr Williams own profession of clinical psychology is as much to blame as anyone else. He says “Psychologists aren’t really into ‘diagnoses’ but it is hard to get away from the reality that we often end up ‘labelling’ as much as our colleagues in psychiatry or nursing. However, we appear to have contributed to a culture whereby getting the ‘right label’ has become almost the norm. Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or Conduct Disorder (CD) to name but a few. It is possible that this has happened because there is a limited financial pot for meeting need and the thresholds for accessing treatment are becoming ever more precious.

For practicing clinicians and educators, it is heart breaking to see a parent’s face when they are told that their child does not meet the diagnostic criteria for certain condition or disorder. The door has just been closed to them and their child being able to ‘access the right level of support’.  because as they see it, they ‘don’t have the right label’. Reports that describes a young person as having ‘neuropsychological difficulties that are most likely caused by pre-natal exposure to alcohol’ is classic of the type of report that parents of adopted children have said ‘gets you nowhere.’ Accessing CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Support) has become an experience for many professionals working in education that is as likely as winning the lottery.

Having an understanding of why a student might be behaving in a particular way or getting to grips with why they cannot master a developmental skill is important. Often behaviours are observed and focused on. Let's take a student who can’t concentrate. The temptation is often to jump to a label, perhaps ‘ADHD’. Whereas understanding that the child has major sleeping difficulties, or is chronically constipated, or having to cope with a drunk stepfather at home, changes how the child's "lack of concentration" is viewed.

Psychologists prefer to call this ‘formulation’. A process whereby we look at the whole child in the context of their development and the environment. Using the background of psychological theory, we construct a path of understanding, from which we can then set about plotting an intervention in partnership with the child, parent and teacher. We can test out whether our treatment has an impact and then revisit (reformulate) as we refine our understanding or set new challenges. It is a process that we are passionate about and want to bring into education as a much as we have ‘labels’. We know innately that educators are not naturally ‘labellers’ and would probably be more at home with formulation. The challenge for all of us is to change the thresholds we set for ourselves away from ‘Labels’ to being one of ‘Need’. For example, a child with a non-verbal learning difficulty (NVLD) who is experiencing panic in loud and unstructured parts of the school day, fares far worse that the student with a diagnosis of ASC who is thriving but is ‘in the system’ because they have the diagnosis. The ‘panic’ is the issue and the target for help, not the ASC or the NVLD.”