A day in 'one of these nice wee jobs';Comment;Opinion

10th April 1998 at 01:00
The Scottish Office recently announced extra funds for training education psychologists. Recently I returned to educational psychology after nearly 21 years, and I was introduced to a secondary teacher by one of my new colleagues.

"This is John, Morag. He's just joined the psychological service" "Oh hello," Morag replied, beaming from ear to ear. "So somebody else got one of these nice wee jobs."

I had kind of hoped that it was going to be "one of these nice wee jobs". After all I had served my time as a teacher, and held managerial posts in both social work and education, not exactly nice wee jobs but there are worse.

Since psychology was about the study of behaviour and mental life and most of us are interested in "what makes people tick", I anticipated a demand for psychological services. Just what kind of demand I was soon to find out.

This was Monday: Five telephone messages were waiting for me, which served me right for not getting into the psychological services centre till 9am. A school medical officer wanted to find out if I knew a boy who had been referred to her by a paediatrician colleague. The child had been admitted to hospital for exploration of a longstanding bed-wetting problem and it was thought that he and his mother behaved very strangely together on the ward.

The second message was from a clinical psychologist who wanted to know why she was being asked to see a pupil from one of my schools who was thought to be dyspraxic and to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. What did I think?

The third was from a senior social worker. Would I be willing to talk to her childcare team about the treatment of adult sex offenders against children? A known paedophile had moved into the area and had been seen masturbating at his bedroom window by some children on their way home from school.

The fourth was from the principal psychologist wanting to know why I had not yet responded to his request for details on all the children with physical impairments in my primary schools who were due to move to secondary in the next year and who may require adaptations such as ramps, lifts and so on.

And finally an assistant headteacher wished to change the date we had previously agreed upon when I would lead an in-service day on team building and stress.

Then there was a consultation session with an assistant headteacher and anxious parents regarding their son who was below average in reading ability.

They had paid an enormous sum of money to a psychologist at the Dyslexia Institute who, not surprisingly, had diagnosed dyslexia. They wished to be reassured that a multisensory approach would be used in teaching their son in secondary school and a record of needs would be drafted if this would be to his advantage.

Three policy documents arrived from the education department. One was on hearing impairment, another on communication disorders and a third on the proposed new social inclusion strategy. Comments were requested by this week.

The social inclusion strategy document looked particularly interesting on first glance. The problem was that I had already been propositioned by two schools.

In the first it was suggested that an excluded pupil might not be welcome back wholeheartedly. In the second draft records of needs were requested on two "wee souls" as a preliminary step towards special school. Inclusion was not going to be easy.

A headteacher on the telephone asked if I was available for emergencies. We had previously agreed on a contract (practice agreement) based on an annual number of visits which took account of the school roll and various deprivation indices such as clothing grant uptake.

The class teacher was already off with stress. The girl pupil was only 12 years of age, had been leaving suicide notes all over the place and was refusing to go home. She said that she hated her parents and if she was forced to leave the school building with them, she would run away. Three hours after the school normally closed, we persuaded the child to go with the social worker to a temporary foster home.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday can only get better. Perhaps I need a good psychologist. Anyone else want "one of these nice wee jobs"?

John Jamieson is a senior educational psychologist in North Ayrshire.

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