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

“We can’t just ask them something and expect them to tell us”

analysis blackboard board bubble

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

By Litsa Cosma

This week is Pupil Voice Week across the UK and schools are being encouraged to help their pupils to “Use Their Voice”. Being able to support children and young people to express their views has long been regarded as a key part of what educational psychologists do. While this appears to be straight forward, finding out what children and young people think can be challenging and complex.

When I worked as a graduate psychologist one of my main tasks was to gather the views of pupils who were having transfer reviews (moving from having a Statement of Special Education Needs to the new Education and Health Care Plans). I worked with pupils who had many different additional needs and I became particularly  interested in pupils who had been categorised as having social and emotional difficulties. I realised that these pupils often found it difficult to talk about how they felt. Sometimes this was about a difficulty building rapport, as many of these pupils found it difficult to trust adults. Also as I was meeting them only once there was little time to develop a relationship with them.

When the pupils were able to talk to me about their views I found they had a lot to say and was able to gather information I that was helpful and relevant for their reviews. I found it useful to use a variety of methods to collect information and not to expect that pupils would find it easy to tell me their views. The materials produced by Helen Sanderson Associates to be used in Person Centred Planning were particularly useful. They provided a structure to support my conversations with the pupils.

This work helped me to understand  that there are some groups of pupils whose voices are less easy to access and this knowledge has been invaluable since I became a trainee educational psychologist. I was therefore interested in research conducted by Clarke, Boorman and  Nind (2013) who worked with girls who had been excluded from school. Given that these girls are in a minority often their voice is not “heard” in stories of exclusion.

There was some similarity with the work that I had done, as the researchers used both “task-centred” and “talk-centred” approaches. In my work I also had to judge if a young person was comfortable and able to talk to me or if they preferred doing an activity that thye could talk about. The Person Centred Planning materials enable me to take a “task-centred” approach that was helpful with pupils who found talking to an adult difficult or threatening.

Clarke et al. (2013) were also able to use digital approaches that reflected activities that the girls were familiar with and that caught their interest. One example was the use of a “Big Brother” style diary room. The logistics of these kinds of approaches are difficult for educational psychologists to use in our day to day work. Despite this, they may provide some inspiration for thinking of innovative ways to develop our practice, especially as more educational psychologists begin to use video in their work.

Having an effective approach to gathering the views of pupils requires us to be child centred and mindful of what interests the children and young people that we work with. Focusing upon this may help us to find new and innovative solutions to capturing “pupil voice” in our work.

Litsa is a trainee educational psychologist currently in year 2 of the University of Birmingham training course.

Reference

Clarke, G., Borrman, G. & Nind, M. (2013). “If they don’t listen I shout, and when I shout they listen”: Hearing the voices of girls with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties. British Educational Research Journal, 37 (5), 765-780.

You can find a Person Centred Planning resources from Helen Sanderson Associates here

 

If you enjoy our blog you can follow us and you will receive an email everytime we post a new blog.