What is the role of an educational psychologist in schools?Posted on: November 1, 2023
by Ruth Brooks
Educational psychologists (EPs) are child development experts who play a vital role in schools. They work with school-age children who have learning difficulties or other special educational needs – as well as their teachers and their parents – to ensure all young people have the support and tools they need to succeed in school.
In school settings, educational psychologists:
- assess children’s learning and development needs
- create and implement interventions that support educational, social, behavioural, and psychological development
- consult with teachers, parents, and other professionals – such as teaching assistants and consultants from local authorities – to create a wholly supportive environment in which all children can reach their full potential.
What are the responsibilities of educational psychologists in schools?
When working with children in pre-school and school settings, educational psychologists are responsible for:
- Working with children directly: spending time with individual children in classroom settings, in groups with other pupils or educators, and during one-on-one sessions to provide additional learning support. This often occurs after a young person with a suspected learning difficulty has been referred to their local educational psychology service.
- Conducting assessments: using a number of different techniques to assess children’s learning requirements.
- Providing diagnoses: diagnosing learning difficulties and disabilities.
- Collaborating with other people: educational psychologists do not work in isolation. A significant aspect of their role involves consulting with others – including parents, carers, teachers and educators, Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) professionals, social workers, and speech and language therapists – to ensure young learners have the support of a full team.
- Designing and implementing intervention plans and strategies for educational success: making recommendations in support of a child’s education. They will help to implement these recommendations and ensure the programmes are maintained.
Reasons why a child may see an educational psychologist
There are numerous reasons why a child may be referred to an educational psychologist, or work with one. For example, they may have difficulty concentrating on their schoolwork, or with regulating their behaviour and emotions in social situations. Their difficulties might also stem from a physical disability or diagnosed condition, such as:
- eyesight or hearing problems
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
- mental health challenges, such as anxiety.
What are the benefits of using an educational psychologist in the classroom?
A key benefit of educational psychologist intervention is that it ensures all children, of all abilities, can fully participate in educational settings and receive a well-rounded education.
According to Enquire, an advice service for additional learning support, educational psychologists’ work in schools helps educators support children so they can be fully included in class, school, and community life:
“They provide advice to headteachers and school staff where needed, and provide training to help staff to develop skills to support children with specific needs and enhance all children’s learning,” Enquire states, adding that educational psychologists also help schools communicate about a child’s needs and fully involve parents in the process – an important element in any intervention plan.
Through their work in schools, educational psychologists can also:
- identify and address learning and behavioural problems in the early years of education
- develop and implement intervention plans tailored to each pupil
- provide additional support and guidance to teachers and parents
- improve the overall quality of education within a school by providing advice and recommendations based on the latest research.
What are the five core competencies of an educational psychologist?
Consultation and advice
Educational psychologists consult and advise children with special educational needs, but they also provide consultation and advice to other educational professionals, such as teachers.
Additionally, educational psychologists may be called upon to help develop – or feedback on – new education policies or programmes.
Assessments are usually ongoing exercises. Educational psychologists will speak to the child they are assessing, as well as their parents and teachers – past and present. Additionally they will analyse a child’s school work, observe them in their classroom, and consider a variety of factors, such as their academic skills, social and emotional development, behaviour, and cognitive skills, such as memory and attention.
An intervention plan follows an educational psychologist’s assessment of a child. This plan may include:
- Recommendations for changes to the child’s learning environment such as additional support or adjustments.
- Techniques and tools for helping the child manage their emotions and behaviour: for example, the child may be taught coping mechanisms for certain scenarios, or how to positively interact in social situations.
- Information, advice, and actions for teachers, parents, and other people in the child’s support network: for example, the plan may recommend workshops on topics such as behaviour management, or provide strategies for working more effectively with the child based on their learning needs.
Professional development and training
Educational psychologists are required to undertake regular continuing professional development (CPD) activities to maintain their Health and Care Professions Council registration.
According to the NHS, these activities may include:
- on-the-job learning with other professionals in health or education systems
- post-qualification courses and workshops to learn new tools and techniques
- volunteering in related areas
- mentoring new educational psychologists
- completing e-learning to stay on top of new trends, theories, and research
- developing new specialisms.
Research and strategic development
Research is an essential area of educational psychology. New research in the field informs new psychological theories, generates new ideas, and enables new approaches.
How to become an educational psychologist
Educational psychologists in the UK are required to complete a psychology degree or conversion course accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS), and must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
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