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Breaking down barriers so children are able to achieve the best they can possibly achieve

By Kate – Principal Child & Educational Psychologist in the Council’s Education and Inclusion team

We work hard with children, young people (CYP), their families, teachers, and key adults to bring about positive change when there’s concern about the child or young person’s learning, social or emotional development. This job is about breaking down the barriers so that CYP can achieve the best they can possibly achieve.

We are a consultative service that currently offers group consultation to primary and secondary school Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities Co-ordinators (SENDCos) across the borough. This is a group problem solving approach which enables us to work creatively to support a range of school staff and the CYP they work with.

A day in the life of a Child and Educational Psychologist is a mixture of visits to nurseries, schools or colleges and paperwork in one of our offices or at home. We work with CYP up to the age of 25 and key adults supporting them.

We are allocated requests for our psychological advice about children and young people who have an Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment (EHCNA) agreed. When this happens, we contact their parent or carer and school, college, or nursery and arrange to go into that setting. We listen to the parents first, or the young people if they are over 16, and we think about the type of assessment we need to do.

We meet the young person or child for two or three hours to complete assessment activities. If they’re very young then we’ll observe them at home or at nursery. We come away with ideas about what might be stopping that child or young person from making progress and then we write up our psychological advice making recommendations to help remove those barriers.

It is widely recognised within the EHCNA process that advice from a Child and Educational Psychologist is comprehensive – we look at the whole child, not only medical facts, or speech and language development, but all factors within their environment, experience and skills which may affect their development. We then base our advice on what we think that child or young person’s needs are.

We also write and deliver training for staff in schools and in Children’s Services. Cheshire West and Chester Council was the first in the North West to introduce Emotional Literacy Support Assistants (ELSAs) into its schools. We now have 209.

Most schools in the borough have at least one ELSA and each September we do six days of training with nominated teaching assistants so they can identify children with emotional literacy difficulties, plan interventions for them and review whether they are working. In addition, every half term we hold group sessions to discuss what actions are going well and what we may need to look at differently, so that interventions are responsive to the child or young person being discussed.

We reach far more children through ELSAs than we can possibly do one-to-one, and this work is really rewarding, with good outcomes, as described on Live Well, the Council's website about support services.

Being a Child and Educational Psychologist for the Council, for any Council, brings with it a lot of responsibility. However, there are many rewards and opportunities to learn from each other, take part in structured continuing professional development and most importantly, to make meaningful positive contributions to the development of CYP’s educational opportunities.

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