Back at you: feeding back to children and young people

By Preeya Chibbra

As a first-year trainee educational psychologist, I take a lot of inspiration from the professional community. One example of this is using one-page profiles as a way of introducing ourselves to children and young people before we begin working with them. I was interested in how these may be used in a reciprocal way. I did this by creating a summary report for a pupil in a similar format to the one-page profile, to mirror the one I had sent them. This represented the voices of the child, parent and school staff in a way that was accessible and engaging for the pupil. It also informed them of the next steps and recommendations I had made from the piece of work. Using one-page profiles in this way reflects their original purpose: to summarise important information about children and young people in a person-centred way. This is one example of how we can feedback to the children who we work with and promote their involvement.

My experience

When I had the opportunity on placement to complete direct casework, albeit virtually, I was excited to send my own profile to the school so that they could share it with the pupil before we met. I also found myself thinking, “how can we use this in a more reciprocal way?”. When reflecting on this piece of work with my placement supervisor, we discussed how to use the one-page profile to feedback to pupils within a report.

After meeting with the child, their parent and school staff, I used the one-page profile format to briefly summarise everyone’s views. I also included a short overview of the recommendations from this piece of work, so that the pupil knew what the next steps were. I aimed to keep the summary report strengths-based, and used colour and visuals to make it more engaging. I sent my full report to the parent and school, alongside the summarised report for them to share and discuss with the pupil. The pupil was happy to get their own one-page profile as a visual representation of what we had talked about when we met.

Why is this important?

Using the one-page profile in a reciprocal way to feedback to children and young people means we can check that we have understood the views they expressed. It also shows that we have listened to these views by capturing the exact phrases used by the child or young person. This can help them to feel that their contribution has been heard, valued and taken seriously into consideration – a principle specified in Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989).

This also reflected conversations that were currently happening within my placement service around who we write reports for and how to make this information more accessible for all audiences. Referring to principles in the Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice, it is important for educational psychologists to promote participation of children and young people in their work. Providing a report that the pupil can read could help them to feel more involved in the process.

 What next?

Moving forward, I will continue to build the one-page profile into my practice to promote the involvement of the individual I am working with. It would also be interesting to hear about other ways that professionals feedback to children and young people in accessible ways. Through discussions with colleagues during my placement and at university, it is clear that educational psychologists already use a variety of methods to represent the voice of the child. This can include writing letters or postcards to the young person to summarise their involvement. However, it is also important to consider time constraints for the casework that educational psychologists undertake. Once a template has been created with the required headings, this could be a way to efficiently create a child-friendly summary report.

Preeya is a Year 1 trainee on the initial training course for educational psychologists at the University of Birmingham.

Listening to the Child’s Voice: Reflections from the DECP TEP Conference 2021

By Ellie Turner, Kate Jobson and Julie Smith-Lewis

This year Division of Educational and Child Psychology (DECP) conference for trainee educational psychologists was online for the first time. So when we logged in at  9:15am sharp, there was no conference room to find and no babble of excited trainee educational psychologists glancing at pieces of paper, trying to find their way around. There was just us at our desks with a coffee and a laptop.  This was our first conference as trainees, and although it was held remotely, we found it very engaging, and we came away with practical strategies to inform our practice. Of particular interest were several sessions that focused on the importance of gaining the child’s voice in our work.

Co-production

Naomi Boswell (Year 3 trainee educational psychologist) focused on listening to children and young people through co-production. The key message we took away from this session was how important it is to create a safe space and show respect for the children and young people that we work with to gain their voice. Naomi provided some practical strategies that we can use as trainees to begin to work in a more collaborative way with children and young people in our daily practice. Introducing ourselves through One Page Profiles enables children and young people to make an informed decision about whether they want to work with us. Dressing more casually can make us appear more approachable, and, where possible, meeting with the young person before we meet with key adults can promote a child, rather than adult-led, agenda.

Children and Young People in Care

Dr. Sarah Wendland focused on the experiences of children and young people in care, and promoted the importance of allowing the child or young person to choose their own ‘supportive adult’ with whom to build a trusting and reciprocal relationship. This is particularly important, as young people in care may lack autonomy in key decisions in other aspects of their lives. Often, this will be the first opportunity that a child or young person has had to speak about their experiences with a trusted adult of their choosing. The process of talking about their experiences enables children and young people to explain what things are like for them using their own words. In doing so, they can make sense of and reflect on, their thoughts and feelings.

Listening to the Voice of Trans Young People

Dr. Annie McGowan presented her research on the views and experiences of trans young people in secondary school. The key findings emerging from her research were that trans young people want to feel accepted and validated for who they are, have the opportunity to be listened to and referred to by their choice of name/pronoun, thereby fostering a sense of belonging.  As trainees we have a responsibility to advocate for trans children and young people, while empowering them to advocate for themselves. In addition, by working closely with secondary schools we can promote a positive whole-school ethos and a tailored school response to understand gender diversity. As Dr. McGowan concluded: “the only way to achieve happiness is to live your truth”.    

Reflections on the Day

The 2021 DECP conference allowed us to reflect on our own practice, and develop new skills and knowledge in eliciting the child’s voice, both in person and via virtual platforms. We would like to thank all of the presenters for sharing their diverse experiences of gaining the views of children and young people in their work. Gaining the child’s voice is central to our work as trainee educational psychologists, and we will utilise the strategies learned in this conference in our future practice.

Ellie Turner, Kate Jobson and Julie Smith-Lewis are Year 1 trainees on the doctoral training course for educational psychologists at the University of Birmingham

Bitmoji blog

Decolonising the Educational Psychology Curriculum

By Paige Garbett, Zoë Morrice and Julia Howe

time for change sign with led light

Photo by Alexas Fotos on Pexels.com

Background to the Project

This academic year one of the priorities for the educational psychology team at the University of Birmingham has been to complete a review of our curriculum using ideas from the decolonising movement. The idea of decolonising the curriculum has its roots in the Rhodes Must Fall movement, and this is discussed in an earlier blog post that we published in 2018. The impetus for the current review came from two sources: 1. an Action Plan developed by the tutor team in response to the many concerns raised by the Black Lives Matter movement and 2. the start of a decolonising project in the School of Education where we are based. At this time we have completed the first round of the project and here we are reflecting on our learning from the process so far.

The Decolonising the Curriculum Project

The School of Education project is based upon work conducted at Kingston University where an Inclusive Curriculum Framework Review has been developed. This is intended to be used in participation with students. In this approach, students review the content of a teaching module and then provide anonymous feedback to the lecturer who is the module lead. It was apparent that this process would require some adaptation for the educational psychology course. Our teaching modules tend to have more content than undergraduate courses and run throughout the academic year rather than being contained in one semester. A further complication is that the sessions on our modules are taught by a mixture of course tutors, other academics in the School of Education and visiting speakers, who are mainly qualified educational psychologists from the Local Authority services in the West Midlands.

As a result of these differences we decided to adapt the process to our course while continuing to work and share our experiences with colleagues across the School of Education. We began by asking for volunteers from our trainees to become involved in the project and thirteen students from across our three cohorts expressed an interest in taking part. We then approached the course tutors and four external speakers (all qualified educational psychologists) to ask if they would like to become involved in the project and have a teaching session that they deliver reviewed. From this process we were able to identify 6 teaching sessions on a range of topics and we matched presenters with a pair (and one group of three) of trainees. We began with a workshop with students and lecturers from the undergraduate courses, to set the scene and context. Following this, the trainees worked together to review the session using the Curriculum Framework Review and then met with the presenter to discuss the content. We then met as whole group to discuss our learning from the first stage of the project.

Zoë’s reflections:

Using the Curriculum Framework Review provided us with a valuable opportunity to collaboratively consider aspects of the session that I personally had never explored in as much depth before.  We discussed the language that was used to describe specific concepts– were certain terms Eurocentric and therefore exclusionary?  We considered the content from a historical and global perspective and agreed the importance of acknowledging other viewpoints, as opposed to only a Western understanding of the topic, creating space to challenge previously accepted ‘truths’.  Where research had been used to support an argument in the session, we reflected on acknowledging the population that the findings were derived from and whether these findings were representative of a diverse range of individuals and therefore useful to share.  Taking an intersectional approach to considering the content, and the fantastic conversations that came about as a result of this, really encouraged me to reflect further on my own practice as a trainee educational psychologist.  I have found the Curriculum Framework Review to be a useful tool when developing aspects of training, challenging my own reasons for including certain content and questioning whose voices I am representing.  Being involved in this project has been extremely worthwhile both personally and professionally and I’m looking forward to participating in the next stage of this work.

Paige’s reflections:

Being apart of the Decolonising the Curriculum project and using the Curriculum Framework Review has really shifted how I approach and view both the learning sessions we undertake as and the training that we provide to stakeholders. One of the points during my involvement in this project that really shifted my understanding and perceptions related to representation. Are you checking in with knowledge before discussing a topic? Are the images you are using diverse and representative? Is the underpinning theory and research diverse or are they based on white Western populations and theorists? The project has allowed me to understand and reflect on how important these aspects are for making sure all audiences are included, allowing me to reflect on my own practice as a trainee educational psychologist. It also allowed me to reflect on my own privilege as a white person as these were concepts, I had generally not thought of or noticed previously. The Curriculum Framework Review is an extremely useful tool for developing and delivering training, it has enabled me to think more critically of the content I am using as well as how effectively I am representing voices. Being apart of this project has allowed me to develop both professionally and personally and will have a continued impact on how I practice as a trainee educational psychologist going forward.  

The Next Steps

We are now entering the second stage of the project. We have taken our feedback from the first stage and used this to develop the Curriculum Framework Review, providing clearer descriptions for some of the categories and adapting some sections so that they fit our course a little better. For the next stage of the project we plan to spend a day in April with all of our trainees and tutors using the adapted Curriculum Framework Review to take a broader look at our course content. We made a decision at the beginning of the project that we wanted to forefront anti-racism in our curriculum review and the work so far has raised questions about how we maintain this while recognising the importance of intersectionality. We expect the debates in this area to be ongoing. There have also been interesting developments where our visiting speakers have taken the ideas from the project into their Educational Psychology Services and we have been working together on how the Curriculum Framework Review might adapted to look at the development of training and other materials in a service context. Perhaps the most importance learning is that we are not trying to develop an end product and the work is about changing thinking. In this way we hope that the project will have a long term influence on the training course.

Paige and Zoë are trainee educational psychologists in Year 2 of the initial training course for educational psychologists at the University of Birmingham. Julia is a tutor on the course.

Life of a Year 1 Trainee Educational Psychologist – Lockdown Edition

By Ella Mansfield

woman using her laptop on video call

Photo by Edward Jenner on Pexels.com

In January, I wrote a blog post about what an average week is like for a year 1 trainee educational psychologist at the University of Birmingham. At that point, I had no idea that in a matter of months I would be continuing the course from my parents’ home, writing essays from my childhood bedroom and starting my second placement remotely, having never met any of my new colleagues face to face.

Back in March, the university decided not to continue face-to-face lectures. This was a relief, in a way, as sitting in close proximity to twelve other trainees for six hours a day was beginning to feel a little panic inducing. The news about growing infection rates was becoming more serious and we were all starting to worry about the health of both ourselves and our loved ones. When I was sure there would be no more lectures, I had a hasty  departure from both my shared rental home and the city, one week before lockdown started. I packed up the car with everything I own, and made my way back to Surrey where my parents and boyfriend live.

This was my fourth week at my second placement in Year 1 of my course, in June 2020.

Monday

This morning, I ‘met’ with my placement supervisor via video call to talk about last week’s work and plan for the next few days. Over the last two weeks, we have been co-writing some non-routine statutory casework for a teenager who has had a long history of difficulties in educational settings. The case is complex, as the young person has  multiple learning difficulties and social, emotional, and mental health problems. . Social distancing measures have resulted in some adjusts to practice including the inability to visit the teenager in school to assess their needs. This first-hand information would help to fill gaps in the information we are provided by other professionals, so that we can have a holistic view of the case. Instead, we are planning on contacting the young person and their parents via a phone call..

During our meeting, my supervisor and I also discussed a potential training opportunity. My placement service has set up a helpline for parents to offer support during the pandemic. Having volunteered as a counsellor for ChildLine, a listener for Samaritans and managed a phone counselling service for students, my supervisor suggested that it might be useful to share some of my experiences in the hope that it might help support and improve the educational psychology helpline and other phone support services. We discussed the relevance of my experiences and which areas might be helpful for educational psychologists to hear about. Whilst I’m excited about this project, I’m wary that any content I share with my colleagues must be applicable to what they are doing as there is great demand on their time. .

I spent Monday afternoon working on the outcomes and recommendations for the casework and then had a short peer supervision video conference  with one of the other year 1 trainee educational psychologists  who is on placement at the same local authority. I find these meetings so useful – not just to discuss placement and university, but also for social time and maintaining my own wellbeing.

After work, my boyfriend and I went out for our government-approved exercise – a jog. I decided to force him to run up Box Hill – a famous beauty spot and very steep slope! I instantly regretted it of course, but it was worth it for the views.

Tuesday

This morning I ‘attended’ (via video) a RAG review meeting for a specialist secondary school for pupils with profound and multiple learning difficulties. A RAG review meeting involves the identification and discussion of children within a school who are considered the most at risk, which could be due to things such as bereavement, dangerous behaviour, or domestic issues at home.

The school are  trying to ensure that pupils who are most at risk are in school if possible. Transport is a  problem as many pupils need specialist equipment and travel long distances to get to class. The staff appear to be under a great deal of strain as they try to continue as normal whilst working in shifts, maintaining social distancing where they can whilst also  catering for the pupils themselves as the school kitchens are  closed. All this with little or no PPE, causing concerns about their own health and the health of their families. I’m looking forward to being part of these meetings on a weekly basis as this has taught me a lot about the lived experience of school staff and pupils during this difficult time. School is so important for these pupils, not just for learning but also for social experience, routine, specialist support, parent respite, nutrition and community inclusion.

This evening I phoned around some local farms  to try to source some chickens for my parents. My boyfriend and I have been building a chicken coop in the garden from an old swing set and recycled fence panels. It’s not beautiful but we think it should keep the foxes out!

Wednesday

Today, I mostly focused on my training for educational psychologists on helpline services. As I was wary that some might not find the content of my training applicable to their role, I decided to create a short survey to gauge interest.. I sent it off in the morning and got some lovely feedback from my colleagues about how refreshing it was to complete a questionnaire in under a minute! I was pleased to see that all respondents  suggested that they thought the training would be useful. The topics they were most interested in learning about were helpline frameworks, supervision and aural active listening techniques. Now, I suppose, I need to get on with planning it!

During the afternoon, we had a team meeting, chaired by the Senior Educational Psychologist who manages the team. The meetings would usually be fortnightly, but due to the pandemic they’ve become a weekly occurrence. I’ll be honest, I’ve found them a little disorientating, but it’s normal to feel a bit lost when you first start a new placement, simply because you don’t know people’s names or interests and the topics of discussion are different at each Educational Psychology Service. However, when you don’t know what anyone looks like, let alone whose voice is whose, it can be even more confusing! I’ve been trying to let the information wash over me and be at peace with the idea that I don’t need to know everything and everyone all at once. I tend to write down words and phrases I don’t understand and either look them up or ask my supervisor about them later on.

Thursday and Friday

Thursday and Friday are our study days. I’ve been trying hard to keep these days completely separate and use them to only work on things for university. I’m currently writing an essay about the unique role of the educational psychologist in working with children with low-incidence complex individual needs. I chose this topic as, for me, this year has largely been about understanding the educational psychology role and I was keen to know more about how it differed from other specialist roles. Educational psychologists have a  broad skill set which doesn’t lend itself to a clear role description when collaborating with other specialists  There are certain functions which are unique to the educational psychology role. Collaborative communication with others and skill in building rapport means that educational psychologists are well-placed to gather information and make change in a range of environments, including the child’s school, home and community. Psychological knowledge is therefore a  strength, meaning that interventions and approaches can be tailored to the child as an individual.

Ella is a Year 2 trainee on the initial training course for educational psychologists at the University of Birmingham.