Educational Psychologists are highly qualified. They have undertaken a minimum of seven years training. This includes an undergraduate degree in psychology and post graduate qualifications. All have either a Masters Degree or a Doctorate in Educational/Child Psychology, and many have a PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education).
All Educational Psychologists working for the Education Authority (EA) are registered as practitioner psychologists with the Health Care Professionals Council and are eligible for Chartered Psychologist status with the British Psychological Society.
As part of their post graduate training, Educational Psychologists study typical patterns of child development, the psychology of learning and teaching, and the psychological aspects of teaching children with special educational needs.
They study how groups function, and how people communicate and maintain relationships. They also learn about assessment, solving problems, training others and research methods.
Our aim is to apply psychology to help the development and emotional health and well-being of children and young people. All our work is guided by four key principles;
- We have the skills, knowledge and experience to contribute towards meeting the needs of children and their families.
- We believe in working collaboratively and in partnership with families, colleagues and other professionals.
- We believe that an individual’s needs are best understood by considering their family, educational settings and community contexts.
- We believe by working efficiently we will help people to realise their potential for positive change and growth.
All Educational Psychologists are Practitioner Psychologists registered with the Health Care Professionals Council who monitor necessary competence for practice which must be maintained through regular supervision/governance and continual professional development opportunities.
In addition, all Educational Psychologists have an enhanced CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check.
Psychology Assistants also work within the Educational Psychology Service.
They contribute to assessment and interventions for children and young people, under the supervision of qualified psychologists.
The Psychology Assistant’s minimum entry qualification is an honours degree in Psychology.
This has enabled the Service to develop a graduate entry base.
We work in Nurseries, Primary Schools and Post-Primary Schools, as well as Special Schools and Specialist Classes / Units. We also work with Preschool children (including those in Playgroups).
- Educational Psychologists have a unique role in working at different levels within the education system, linking casework to the development of policy and strategy. They provide direct support to individual children and young people and often work with and through others. This enables more children and young people to benefit from Educational Psychologist’s skills and knowledge.
- Educational Psychologists undertake research and support staff (though in-service training) to enhance the outcomes for children and young people. We are a child-centred service with key roles in prevention and early intervention.
- Educational Psychologists work to support schools to create positive, inclusive environments which foster and develop children’s and young people’s resilience and wellbeing to impact positively on mental health. We make recommendations and may carry out interventions.
Currently, Educational Psychologists are employed by the Education Authority which has a legislative duty to provide such services. The Educational Psychology Service advises the Education Authority, school staff and parents/carers on the needs of children and young people with special educational needs (SENs) and the educational provision they may require.
Educational Psychologists use psychology to improve the wellbeing and education of young people. In addition, we provide support to schools and are involved in developing a range of evidence based programmes and initiatives at both an individual and systemic level. We also work collaboratively with other professionals and agencies in the statutory, voluntary and community sectors.
Educational Psychologists apply psychological theory, research and techniques, as well as carrying out a range of psychological and educational assessments.
Each School and each Nursery has a link Educational Psychologist.
Generally during the first term of each school year, there is a Consultation meeting in each School and in each Nursery to discuss concerns and priorities for the coming year's involvements.
The total amount of time that the Educational Psychology Service can make available to Schools is allocated according to a range of factors according to need. This ensures the time available is shared out fairly. (This is what is meant by ‘Time Allocation’).
Although it is the responsibility of the School / Nursery to decide which children would be priorities for the coming year, the Educational Psychologist helps them in making these decisions.
While we are available to consult with Nurseries at any point in the school year, some preschool children may need time to settle in before their needs become apparent to the adults working with them. Therefore, consultation meetings with Nurseries may take place at a later point in the first term of the academic year or at the beginning of the second term, after Christmas.
The School / Nursery then send in a referral to the Educational Psychology Service for those children prioritised.
Some Preschool / Pre-Nursery / Non-Nursery children are referred to the Educational Psychology Service directly by by Community Paediatricians or through Child Development Clinics.
Sometimes parents may contact us regarding concerns about their child. In these circumstances we would encourage them to talk directly to their school Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo), or we can pass on any additional information the parent gives us to the school SENCo.
In ALL circumstances, parental permission is required.
We would endeavour to see all of the children prioritised and referred to us for the coming year, within that school year, and within order of priority according to the needs of the child
Consultations with parents, teachers, other professionals
We try to meet with all of the key people involved with the child, including parents, teachers and other professionals. Through this we learn about the difficulties the child is experiencing, when they began and how much they are affecting the child’s learning and overall happiness. We also try to get an understanding of the context in which the needs arise.
Often the Educational Psychologist will want to observe the child in the school setting (and sometimes in the home setting). This would involve sitting-in on the classroom, or visiting the playground.
Individual work with a child
This often involves carrying out individual assessment. We make use of assessment materials that are designed to be able to explore a child’s individual learning style. We try to identify both strengths and weaknesses in thinking skills, as well as social and emotional development.
This includes social and relationship skills, self-esteem, confidence, independence, motivation etc.
This work is usually carried out within the school, but sometimes it can be at home, or sometimes in the Educational Psychology Service office.
Providing feedback to parents and teachers
We would then gather together our findings and try to come to an understanding of the needs, and how we might work to make things better. Throughout this process, we would give feedback to parents and teachers.
Intervention programmes to help the child
We may devise a form of intervention programme to help the child, which may be delivered by the school or by the Educational Psychology Service.
Thereafter, progress would be monitored and reviewed. If progress is not as hoped, interventions and support can be reviewed and altered.
Providing Advice for the Education Authority
In some circumstances, resources beyond what is normally available in the school may be needed, and the Educational Psychologist can then provide advice on this for the Education Authority.
The Child or Young Person
The voice of the child is the most important aspect of our involvement. This can involve talking to them in school or at home about their thoughts and feelings, asking about things which they feel good at and discussing things which they would like to do better. We may complete some activities with the child on an individual basis and carry out observations in the classroom to help identify their strengths and difficulties.
The Educational Psychology Service does not become involved with a child without parental consent and our discussions with parents provide a wealth of information about the child’s needs. We may ask about the child’s early development and their current skills in a range of areas. We are also interested in how their presentation at home and in other environments has changed over time and will discuss how they can best be supported in the future.
When we are involved with a child who is attending a Nursery, Primary or Post-Primary School setting, we will seek the views of the class teacher / form teacher. This will involve gathering information about the child’s daily functioning in a range of areas, such as learning, communication, social interaction, concentration and general independence. We may ask to see samples of the child’s work or school records of the child’s progress over a period of time.
Other School Staff
In order to gain a rich picture of the child’s strengths and needs, we are keen to liaise with other members of staff in educational settings. The Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) is a key point of contact for Educational Psychology Service throughout the year. The SENCo can provide information on strategies and measures which the school has implemented in response to a child’s needs, prior to our direct involvement.
Form Tutors or Heads of Year in Post-Primary School settings may be able to provide information based on regular contact with the child. Likewise, members of a school’s Senior Leadership Team may have been involved with the child in a pastoral care capacity. We may also talk to non-teaching staff, such as Classroom Assistants, who have helped to support the child in the classroom or elsewhere during the school day.
The child may also be known to services outside of the Education Authority. Some children may have attended, or are attending, Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy or Physiotherapy, or may have support from the Regional Integrated Support in Education team (RISE). Others may have been supported by Social Services or other agencies within the community and voluntary sectors. The Educational Psychology Service may contact these professionals to discuss recent assessment findings, previous interventions or current care plans.
When a child is under-going a Statutory Assessment by the Education Authority, the Educational Psychology Service is required by the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice to consult with or consider information from other Psychologists who have worked with the child, as well as other Educational Psychologists who may have been involved with the child in a private capacity.
- Usually it is appropriate for a report to be provided, depending on the nature of the work that has been done.
- We offer parents suggestions about how they can help their child's development and learning.
- The advice that we offer to teachers is usually to suggest ways to improve a child's learning or behaviour and ways to help children with learning difficulties to achieve their potential.
- We may also carry out supportive interventions.
- Sometimes we can get other Services/Agencies involved who can also provide help and support.
- We also provide advice for the Education Authority about difficulties that are likely to be significant and long term (it may be appropriate to recommend that a school requests a Statutory Assessment).
The School or Nursery will seek consent from a child’s legal guardian before any child is discussed with the Educational Psychologist. Once consent is obtained, the Educational Psychologist will consult with staff to help determine if a referral to the Educational Psychology Service is appropriate at that time.
We handle the information we gather carefully. All information will be stored confidentially and will only be shared on a need-to-know basis. Parental / Guardian permission will be sought before information is shared (with the exception of Safeguarding or Child Protection concerns).
Your privacy is important to us and we will process your personal data, in line with the requirements of the Data Protection Act 2018 - General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) 2018.
The EA Data Protection Policy sets out the procedures that will be followed when dealing with personal information and applies to all personal information processed by or on behalf of EA. We will review and update this data protection policy regularly in accordance with our data protection obligations. You can refer to the EA Data Protection Policy below.
The EA Psychology Service continues to support schools, parents and others with concerns in terms of pupils’ special educational needs. The Service will continue to progress Stage 3 referrals from schools that were agreed prior to the school closure on the 23 March 2020. We are also working closely with our colleagues in Statutory Operations to provide Psychological Advice when requested.
The Educational Psychology Service are required to adhere to Government Advice regarding social distancing and travel therefore face-to-face assessments, observation and test administration, as well as direct consultation with parents and teachers has therefore been suspended. The EA Psychology Service is now gathering information from questionnaires and other screening tools administered via telephone or videocall; telephone consultations with school sources such as the school’s SENCO; previous assessments; scores from standardised tests or other attainment information; and analysis of the child’s developmental checklist. This information may be added to at a later stage.
For those children who require psychometric testing, appointments will be arranged when the schools reopen.
It is acknowledged that these methods do not replace a full and comprehensive assessment, but in these exceptional circumstances, Educational Psychologists must collate information in a manner that does not compromise the safety of children, their families and its staff.
Covid-19 also means that our communication method will change, so that all documents will be issued to the school’s secure C2K email address.
In addition, the EA Psychology Service is happy to provide advice and resources to staff, and provide training to support children and young people who are struggling at this time or during the period when schools reopen.
Prior to the establishment of the Education Authority in 2015, there were five discrete Educational Psychology Services, based across the five Education and Library Boards.
The Education Authority Educational Psychology Service now covers the whole of the province as one Service.
The Service continues to be undergo restructure and change.
At this time, a Head of the Psychology Service has been appointed, who is supported by Principal Educational Psychologists.
There are currently fifteen Educational Psychology Service teams working across the Education Authority area.
A Senior Educational Psychologist is responsible for the management and supervision of each area team.
Each of these teams is made up of Educational Psychologists and Psychology Assistants within a local office.