Our Educational Psychologist
Ben Tayler - Our school has a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the Educational Psychology Service, our school buys in 6 full days a year of support for our students – working closely with staff and parents. We also buy in additional days for our students placed in our resourced facility The SPACE Centre.
What is an Educational Psychologist (EP)?
We use our knowledge of psychology to work in partnership with families, schools and other professionals to help children and young people learn, develop and make the most of their time in education. This could involve anything from working with schools to improve policy and enhance staff understanding and skills, to helping parents and staff to unpick a concern around an individual
child’s progress and development.
How do EPs become involved with a young person?
A young person may come to the attention of an EP in a number of ways. Typically, a member of school staff will contact me and ask for my involvement when they would like some help to understand why, despite their best efforts to address the concerns, a young person is:
not making academic progress
finding it difficult to form positive relationships in school
finding it difficult to manage their emotions and/or behaviour
unhappy in school
To be involved, I must have the full consent of the young person’s parent or carer and the consent of the young person. Although school staff do what they can to provide me with all the relevant information in advance, I will not always be aware of the full extent of the pupil’s situation or history.
What happens when an EP becomes involved with a young person?
Initially, parents and key staff are invited to meet with me for a discussion at school. This meeting typically takes about an hour and the young person is not normally invited to this meeting. During this meeting, I assess the situation through discussion and we consider a range of psychological factors that might be contributing to the problem. These might include important past events (e.g. previous challenges and changes), contextual factors (e.g. environment, relationships, meeting the expectations of school), within-child factors (e.g. skills, beliefs, behaviours) and how these factors interact with one another.
The aim of my involvement is for all key adults to gain a shared understanding of the psychological factors that might be contributing to the problem. By the end of the meeting, a plan is formed with some actions for school staff and parents to test out. On some occasions, the problem will be more complex, in which case I would return at a later date to investigate further. Further investigation and assessment can take a variety of forms, including observing the young person in class, having a discussion with the young person, gathering more data or information from other staff and sometimes working directly with the young person.
Once the plan is implemented, I always prefer to return to review the young person’s situation and the impact of the plan.
How quickly can an EP become involved?
I visit the school on a regular basis and we try our best to ensure we use the limited time we have as effectively as possible. We are not an emergency service and so are not in a position to respond to immediate requests. However, we try our best to ensure that priority is given to young people with the greatest level of need.
When would an EP work or choose not to work directly with a young person?
My role is predominantly consultative, in that my aim is to help those who directly work with and care for young people. This is for a number of reasons.
Given that my time is limited with the school, it is important that my time is used as effectively as possible. We are more likely to see change if those supporting the young person understand the problem and do something different as a result. The psychology that informs my work takes the view that context, experiences and what we have learned as a result strongly determines how we
think, feel and behave. Features of the environment and relationships strongly influence how we act. This is not to deny individual vulnerabilities, whether physical or psychological. The point is that these vulnerabilities might predispose a person to respond in different ways under different circumstances.
The least effective use of my time is to ask me to see a young person, on their own, taken out of their context. It is also ineffective if no member of staff has agreed to take responsibility for following up the implications of my work. It is far more effective for me to engage in discussion with staff and parents about pupils where the focus is to work together in problem solving about a pupil’s
needs and how to manage them.
Finally, I do not want to disrupt a young person’s life any more than is necessary. There are always a relatively small number of children where the situation warrants more intervention. Therefore, I might occasionally have a role in contributing to more extensive assessment and planning, and also undertake individual work with a pupil. As with all my work, though, there must be a valid, purposeful and ethical justification for it.
How to find out more?
If I am likely to be involved in discussing your child’s progress and you still have questions after reading this information sheet, then please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org.