Coronavirus COVID 19 guidance for schools Free article: Working with students in alternative provision Free article: Adverse childhood experiences: Effects on behaviour Free article: Autism - Championing transitions to university Free article: Mild deafness - Significant challenges Free article: SEN reform - Progress so far Free article: Access arrangements Free article: ADHD in the classroom Free article: A day in the life… of a special school headteacher Free article: Developing phonological awareness skills for struggling readers Free article: Pupil premium Free article: Using sensory stories - The importance of sensory learning Free article: Working with wellbeing Free article: Parental engagement - Changes for parents and schools Free article: Meeting everyone’s needs - The most able students Free article: Selective mutism: Seen but not always heard - part one Free article: Early years, SEN and inspection Free article: A day in the life … of a specialist disability tutor Free article: A day in the life ... of an educational psychologist Free article: A day in the life ... of a speech and language therapist

Coronavirus COVID 19 guidance for schools

Martin Hodgson summarise the Coronavirus guidance for schools.

Free article: Working with students in alternative provision

How can professionals support and maintain the good attendance of students attending alternative provision? Victoria Franklin considers the risks and the barriers and suggests ways to overcome them.

Free article: Adverse childhood experiences: Effects on behaviour

Sam Garner writes about adverse childhood experiences and the effect they can have on a child’s behaviour in the classroom.

Free article: Autism - Championing transitions to university

The University of Bath’s Summer School for students on the autism spectrum has experience in easing the transition between school and university. Steph Calley, a research assistant at the summer…

Free article: Mild deafness - Significant challenges

Rachel O’Neill looks at the impact of mild deafness on children, and explains why calling something mild does not prevent it from being a real challenge to the affected student.

Free article: SEN reform - Progress so far

After one year of implementation of SEN reform, schools and parents are reporting a very mixed picture across the country. Suzanne O’Connell considers what the DfE is proposing and what…

Free article: Access arrangements

Access arrangements are a contentious issue, debated every year, but they are vital to ensure a level playing field for all our students. Sam Garner, a trainer and consultant for access arrangements, addresses…

Free article: ADHD in the classroom

Are you waiting for them to fail or challenging them to succeed? Jane Cordez reminds us that pupils do not care what you know until they know that you care.

Free article: A day in the life… of a special school headteacher

In this regular feature, we look at what a usual day holds for a professional who works with students with special educational needs. Here Mary Isherwood, headteacher of Camberwell Park…

Free article: Developing phonological awareness skills for struggling readers

Rosie Eachus explores using phonological awareness activities with young children to ensure that any learning gaps are noticed and given extra support.

Free article: Pupil premium

The pupil premium remains the government’s flagship method of providing additional resources to disadvantaged pupils. In this article we give advice to the SENCo about how it might be used.

Free article: Using sensory stories - The importance of sensory learning

Joanna Grace explains how children with disabilities can benefit from stories that are told by sharing sensory experiences.

Free article: Working with wellbeing

Working on children's wellbeing does more than make them happier. Giles Bryant explains the observable difference that simple exercises can make to pupils with SEN, with something for every age.

Free article: Parental engagement - Changes for parents and schools

Jenny Townsend gives an overview of the green paper’s potential impact on schools’ relationships with parents.

Free article: Meeting everyone’s needs - The most able students

Ofsted’s new report on the most able has implications for every group of students in the school. In this article we look at the recommendations and what they might mean…

Free article: Selective mutism: Seen but not always heard - part one

In the first of two articles, Liz Tucker explains selective mutism and what the implications can mean for the child.

Free article: Early years, SEN and inspection

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework sets out requirements for the education and care of all children in early years settings.Christine Newton examines the framework and Ofsted inspection requirements,…

Free article: A day in the life … of a specialist disability tutor

In this regular feature, we look at what a usual day holds for a professional who works with students with special educational needs. Here a disability tutor, Jane Stothard, takes…

Free article: A day in the life ... of an educational psychologist

In the first of a regular feature, we look at what a usual day holds for a professional who works with children with special educational needs.

Free article: A day in the life ... of a speech and language therapist

In this regular feature, we look at what a usual day holds for a professional who works with children with special educational needs. Here the speech and language therapist (SLT)…

Free article: A day in the life ... of an educational psychologist

Published: Tuesday, 11 February 2014

In the first of a regular feature, we look at what a usual day holds for a professional who works with children with special educational needs.

Here the educational psychologist Xavier Eloquin takes us through his day.

I usually wake up at around 6.30 in the morning. If I am at home I lie there thinking I should go to the gym, until our youngest son comes in to our bed at around 7.30. By then it is too late, and after a bit of a chat I get up, breakfast and look at my diary.

No day is ever the same as an EP, although the cuts to local authority budgets have seen a move towards more and more statutory work, mainly statements of special educational needs. I tend to pack files and any equipment I need the night before and head straight to a school, rather than going to the office in the morning. If it is a report I am doing, then I will have arranged my itinerary with the school well in advance. I might meet with the parents and teacher first to get their views of how a child is coping, what he or she can and cannot do and what provision the school has in place.

Then I will go and observe the student in context. It is a humbling experience to sit in on a lesson or playtime and quietly observe another human trying, struggling, relating to others. I always ensure the teacher knows in advance, and – importantly – that they should unobtrusively point the child out to me. I have spent hours observing the wrong child in the past. At the same time, I live in fear of the teacher saying aloud, ‘Oh, you’re here to observe …’ and the poor child is left bewildered and self-conscious. Usually I am good at blending into the background. On one occasion, though, the entire class starting whispering and fidgeting until a boy came up and asked if I really was Harry Potter.

If I need to do some direct work with a child I arrange a familiar adult to introduce us and, if necessary, stay with us. So many people think that the most effective work an EP can do is direct work with a child, feeding into a ‘full psychological assessment’. I still don’t know what that is – there are so many tools out there that I could probably assess a child every day for a year. The real skill is clarifying what the issue is and then developing a hypothesis that one tests, possibly using a cognitive test, a chat, drawings or any number of other tools. Statutory assessments are a specific document, requiring EPs to identify all areas of need and the types of provisions needed to meet these needs.

If the report deadline is close I will go back to the office, delete emails and procrastinate before frantically typing the report up. If not, I tend to do further work in the school or another school, if it is near by. Until recently, more of my time was spent offering consultation to teachers, parents and others. This tends to be a more effective way of resolving a problem than writing a report. There are lots of different consultation models I use, but the main thrust is that those involved co-create solutions. This is important – I can come up with hundreds of ideas, but if it doesn’t fit with the problem-holder’s views or workload, nothing will change. The real skill is guiding them to an ‘aha’ moment themselves.

One memorable instance of this was when two teachers were concerned about a little girl’s absolute lack of progress in reading, despite having no literacy difficulties. I was stuck about what to say until it was revealed that her mother was dying of cancer. Something started to make sense to me, a link between making progress and a little girl desperately trying to stop time passing. I fed this back and it was like a bolt of lightning in the room: they’d been under so much pressure to focus on literacy progress they had missed the bigger picture – this little girl did not want her mother to die. I didn’t really need to say much after that.

I do less work like that now. The cuts have led to a retrenchment of local authority services to schools and many EPs working in the public sector are very worried about the future. There is uncertainty about where local authorities are going and how they will employ EPs and other support staff.

I have already started working independently for a group of special schools, which I really enjoy. The work is challenging and I have been told, ‘No reports, just get staff thinking and behaving differently.’ The downside is that it is far away from home. The upside is that I stay in a lovely village pub and the landlord is almost pouring my pint when I arrive after a three-hour drive! Quite what will happen in the next few years, though, is anyone’s guess.

On a busy day I might do some twilight training sessions in schools. I am the EP for the Virtual School for Looked After Children and so I do a lot of training on attachment needs in school. I love training as I like talking to groups of teachers and getting a sense that psychology does really make a difference to people’s lives – children and adults.

Critical incident response is a core EP activity in the local authority. This means dropping everything and supporting schools in which a critical incident (such as a coach crash) or a sad event such as a death has occurred. We usually respond in teams and carry out a number of activities such as group crisis debriefing. Colleagues have recently dealt with a really awful road accident in front of a school. We support the school with things like grieving, managing post-traumatic stress, memorials and other things. It’s difficult work but I find it very rewarding and life affirming.

At the end of the day I usually go back to the office. Sometimes we go for a drink in a nearby pub. I then come home, have a sword fight or an argument about when my 12 year old can go on Facebook. After dinner and bedtimes I sometimes read a journal article or a chapter from a book. Lying in bed, I plan on getting up and going to the gym in the morning ...

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About the author 

Xavier Eloquin is an educational psychologist working independently and for a local authority. An associate fellow of the British Psychological Society, he also works as an organisational consultant and coach with OPUS, the Organisation for the Promotion of Understanding of Society.

This article was first published in the January 2013 issue of SEN Leader magazine. 

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