With no two Educational Psychologists (EPs) working in exactly the same way, the role of the EP can be hard to define and can lead to confusion around what to expect from an EP.
One of the great things about working with Learning & Wellbeing Psychology is that you’re not just working with one EP. We function as a team, meaning that we are able to draw on and learn from each others’ practice and expertise. What that also means is that each member of the team may well respond to your school’s needs in a different way.
However, there is one key area that remains central to our practice, regardless of the approach we use. That is, ensuring everybody is heard.
How do we do this?
There are many ways of capturing the opinions of others and acknowledging their perspectives. These are just three methods that we use on a regular basis to ensure that people feel heard.
Our most commonly used approach to supporting children and young people is through consultation. This might take the form of individual consultations with teaching staff, parents and the young person themselves. It could also be a joint home-school consultation, where the key stakeholders are brought together to engage in the problem-solving process.
Consultation can be a very powerful way of identifying small steps to move a situation forward. Engaging in consultation at an early stage can be a proactive response to an emerging problem and can limit the need for further, more intrusive assessment later on. For this reason, we have put together two ‘stand alone’ consultation packages.
Our ‘Plan, Do, Review consultation’ package provides an opportunity for 3 consultations to take place across a day, typically accompanied by observations. In line with the graduated approach, a second consultation morning is then arranged roughly 6 weeks later in order to review the situation.
Alternatively, our ‘home-school consultation’ package is available to schools and families. This is a much more time bounded offer and places responsibility on the key stakeholders with regard to record keeping and implementing actions. Here, a problem-solving conversation occurs between home and school, facilitated by an EP from Learning & Wellbeing Psychology.
2) Person Centred Approaches
Whatever work we are doing, our ultimate goal is to advocate for the child or young person in any situation. However, it is not always possible or appropriate to work directly with the child or young person.
One example of this, bedded in rich evidence, is the use of Circles of Adults (CoAs). Whilst this approach is considered extremely child centred, involving discussion around a child and their situation, it does not actually include the child at any point and instead, gives the floor to the adults in school to consider not only the child but also their relationship with the child, environmental factors surrounding the child and freedom to consider next steps away from everyday constraints.
3) One-page profiles
Often recommended by EPs, the one-page profile is a simple but effective method of giving a voice to the child. It does what it says on the tin – it allows the child to present themselves on one page of A4. The information is therefore concise and important from the perspective of the child. Whilst this is a great way of communicating needs when time does not allow for a complex handover, the physical completion of a one-page profile can be an intervention in and of itself.
One-page profiles should adopt a positive psychology perspective, covering topics such as ‘things I enjoy’, ‘things I am good at’ and ‘things that help me’. It is OK to also address ‘things I find tricky’ but try to keep this section shorter than the other more positive areas of the profile. Through filling in the profile, the child can share their views with a member of staff (building on that relationship) and also increase their own self-awareness.
And one-page profiles don’t have to be a one-way thing! By teaching staff completing and sharing their own one-page profiles with their pupils, children can feel more at ease and can quickly build trusting relationships with their teachers. Through these relationships, we can engage in open dialogue and really hear what someone is saying. This is why the EPs at Learning & Wellbeing Psychology have made their profiles which we share with the schools in our community! We also have a blank templates for you to download for free.
So the takeaway message from this; whilst every EP may work in a slightly different way and may approach a situation using an array of theories and techniques, ultimately, at Learning & Wellbeing Psychology, we strive to ensure that everyone feels heard and acknowledged and that we continue to place the child at the centre of what we do.