Schools and Educational Psychologists: working together
Psychological Service Vision
To promote the wellbeing and development of all children and young people using the knowledge and evidence base of child psychology
In accordance with statutory obligations the service aims to fulfil this vision by:
- Undertaking high quality assessment, intervention and consultation
- Working in close partnership with children, parents, schools and other agencies following GIRFEC principles
- Raising attainment and promoting achievement through Curriculum for Excellence by training and developing the skills of others
- Adopting a reflective and evaluative approach
- Contributing to research and policy development
Modes of service delivery
Schools continually and systematically identify areas for quality development to meet the needs of children and young people. Any development related to learning or behaviour has a psychological component and could therefore be enhanced by a well-planned contribution from the Psychological Service. Equally, concern about an individual child can encourage schools and Educational Psychologists to think about wider issues and approaches.
There is a range of ways in which the Psychological Service can work together with schools to improve outcomes for children and young people. There are circumstances under which there is a clear need for Educational Psychologists to work directly with individual children and young people. However, a purely casework style of service delivery can fail to use the expertise and time of the Educational Psychologist to best effect, and limit the time available where significant challenges arise around meeting the needs of a vulnerable child or young person.
The Psychological Service can support schools to meet the needs of individual children where there is:
- Ongoing and significant concern, including around looked after children, evidenced by staged intervention, Child’s Planning and review.
- A key point of transition with significant vulnerability anticipated.
- A possible need for neurodevelopmental assessment, as a result of significant impact on day to day functioning.
- Risk of educational placement breakdown.
The service is able to make a distinctive contribution to the development of educational policy and practice both at school and authority level by bringing a current knowledge and evidence base of child psychology. This can represent an effective and efficient way for both schools and Educational Psychologists to improve outcomes for larger numbers of children and young people and could include supporting the implementation of evidence based universal approaches or leading professional learning opportunities for staff.
Educational Psychologists can work alongside schools to address issues through:
- Consultation, assessment and intervention
- Staff development
- Action research
Involving the Educational Psychologist
Your school Educational Psychologist will be happy to discuss any of these approaches with you. Obvious points at which such discussions can take place are when work for the session is being planned or where individuals or a group of children or young people raise a wider issue.
Any plan to carry out a piece of work should be recorded, even if it is relatively small scale and the record of the discussion can be brief and informal. It is equally important to sit down at the end of any intervention and reflect on how effective it has been and what lessons can be learned for the future. In larger scale interventions specific evaluation measures may be built in. Documentation is doubly important here because well-defined information about what works and what does not can be of great value for future planning and to others facing similar issues.
Intervention regarding individual pupils
The Psychological Service works in the context of the education authority's staged intervention process. A key guiding principle should always be that of arranging the least intrusive level of intervention which has the potential to be effective.
The Educational Psychologist may become involved at any stage in this process, with discussion with your school Educational Psychologist helping guide the timing and extent of any involvement. In almost all cases however, some school based assessment will have taken place and interventions implemented and evaluated, prior to the involvement with the service.
When the Educational Psychologist does become involved, and parental permission has been sought, clear information will be required in relation to the child, existing assessment information, the support that has been put in place to date and the effectiveness of this support.
Teachers have always used Educational Psychologists as consultants about pupils whose behaviour or learning may be giving concern, in addition to consulting about wider issues. Such discussions are a helpful and economical use of time and they do not need to be made formal however, it remains helpful for school staff to keep a note of the outcome. There is also value in consulting with the Educational Psychologist more formally around named pupils. Often schools do not need more information about the nature or extent of a pupil's strengths and needs however support can be required to develop effective interventions, evaluate the impact of strategies put in place or explore solutions to overcome barriers to learning.
Regular meetings such as joint support teams are a positive opportunity for this sort of intervention. A note of the consultation must be kept with a record of the discussion and any proposed action by any of the participants. It will be helpful to arrange a follow up review meeting.
Pupils who are discussed in this way are not automatically considered to be referred to the Psychological Service. This is a matter for judgement about the nature and extent of the consultation. Parents may or may not be directly involved in the process at this stage. However permission should always be sought from the parent/carer before such conversations can take place, except in the case of confidential self-referral.
Formal consultation on named pupils
Through discussion with school staff, the Educational Psychologist will clarify who should be involved in the consultation meeting. A time and a venue should be agreed. Both must allow the task to be approached seriously; ten minutes at the teacher’s desk while they have a class will not support effective joint working. Regular meetings such as joint support teams are a positive opportunity for this sort of intervention. A note of the consultation must be kept with a record of the discussion and any proposed action by any of the participants. It will be helpful to arrange a follow-up review meeting.
Pupils who are discussed in this way are not automatically considered to be referred to the Psychological Service. This is a matter for judgement about the nature and extent of the consultation. Parents may or may not be directly involved in the process at this stage. However permission should always be sought from the parent before such conversations can take place, except in the case of confidential self-referral. Where a case file is not opened, the notes of the consultation should be kept in the pupil’s school file.
Direct work or extended consultation around individual pupils
In some cases it will be agreed that direct contact or longer term consultation with the Educational Psychologist is required. In addition, some children will come to school with identified additional support needs and are already known to the service. Continued involvement of the service should still be carefully planned to consider what intervention is required and when.
Clarity of purpose and a common understanding of what the service can offer are essential if direct contact with the Educational Psychologist is to lead to effective action. The procedure outlined below is designed to meet these two objectives. Early discussion with the Educational Psychologist for your area will allow an informed decision on whether it is appropriate to involve the Psychological Service, and in what way.
All requests for intervention with a child or young person must be discussed with the school Educational Psychologist, in person or by telephone. This ensures that a clear focus for involvement is identified. The discussion also provides an opportunity to review the resources and strategies already employed. Ways of addressing concerns other than direct involvement with a child can also be considered at this stage. Parental permission should always be sought before any discussion takes place where a child is named. If it is agreed that direct intervention or longer term consultation may be required, the Educational Psychologist will provide you with a consultation form to complete in advance of the meeting. This form can then be used to record the agreed outcomes from the consultation meeting.
If the discussion suggests that intervention from the service is appropriate, the following procedure should be followed:
- The reasons for suggesting direct involvement with the Educational Psychologist should be discussed with the parents/carers.
- The parents/carers should be provided with a copy of the leaflet 'Psychological Service - Information for Parents’ which is available on the website.
- If the parents/carers agree to consider involving the service, a consultation meeting should normally be arranged.
- Sections 1 and 2 of the Consultation Form should be completed in advance of the meeting.
- Careful consideration should be given to who should attend the consultation meeting along with parents/carers, for example, the class teacher, support assistant, representatives from other agencies involved, the young person themselves, as appropriate.
- Consideration should be given to involving the child or young person at least in part of the process.
- The views of children and young people should be sought and represented.
At the initial consultation meeting, information will be gathered and recorded using a Consultation Form. Core information will then be noted on the Psychological Service database and an electronic file opened to ensure that information is held securely. The Educational Psychologist will work in partnership with parents/carers, school staff and others to achieve the objectives agreed. Progress towards these objectives will be recorded and further discussions held as necessary.
Following discussion it may be agreed that the Educational Psychologist should be involved on a longer term basis. The timescale and the roles and responsibilities of all involved will be agreed in advance.
Review meetings can be an efficient way of offering a consultative contribution and an opportunity to be kept up-to-date with progress around particular pupils. Careful consideration should be given to whether the Educational Psychologist should attend review meetings and should not be assumed as a matter of routine. As each situation will be different, decisions should be made on a case by case basis.
Once the agreed intervention from the Educational Psychologist has been completed the case file will be closed. If there is an agreed need for involvement in the future, with parental permission, the file can be re-opened. Case files should generally not remain open where the pupil’s progress is being monitored by the school.
Most parents are happy to have additional support for their child, including support from the service. Where parents do not give consent, the Educational Psychologist will not become involved directly with the child but may still be able to act as a consultant to staff in relation to general practice issues. Consent should also be sought to share information with other professionals in line with the Argyll and Bute GIRFEC practice model except in the case of confidential self-referral, or for purposes of Child Protection.
For older children or young people, where they have the capacity to understand what is involved, any involvement with the Educational Psychologist must be discussed with them. Older children and young people, where they are sufficiently mature to express their own opinion, have the right to make a confidential self-referral to the Educational Psychologist. It is possible that parents and the school agree that involvement with the service is in a young person's interests but the young person disagrees. It is unlikely that direct work will be beneficial where a young person is resolutely opposed to such involvement. Consultation between the Educational Psychologist and staff working with the young person on effective strategies and approaches would offer one way forward.
Intervention regarding groups of children
Through discussion with schools and work with individual pupils it may become clear that interventions that could address the needs of groups of children or full classes, would be beneficial. This could include interventions such as Friends for Life, Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS), Living Life to the Full, Circle of Friends, Paired Reading, Homunculi, approaches to literacy development, the use of Social Stories etc. The Psychological Service team can support the implementation and evaluation of such approaches to meeting needs.
Staff development and action research
Often addressing the specific needs of children in schools results in an identified need for staff training. This could relate to particular conditions or issues such as autism, literacy or attachment with a focus on effective strategies to meet such needs. The Psychological Service can provide a wide range of training on meeting learners’ needs. This staff development may be provided by the link psychologist for your school or in conjunction with other members of the team. Educational Psychologists can also support schools to meet objectives within the school improvement plan. This could be through supporting small scale action research to help schools establish the impact of new approaches or strategies that have been implemented.
For further information please contact the Principal Educational Psychologist:
Argyll House, Alexandra Parade, Dunoon, PA23 8AJ
Tel: 01369 708537