New general secretary talks to Adi Bloom about seeing children as children, not as problems
Charles Ward's career would have been very different, had it not been for a devious deputy head.
The new general secretary of the Association of Educational Psychologists had intended to teach history. But his first school had already appointed too many history teachers. So the deputy asked him if there was anything else he would like to tackle.
He volunteered to take some special-needs lessons at the South Shields secondary, a subject he had enjoyed during his training. When term started, he found he was teaching nothing but special needs.
Thirty years later, the 55-year-old has still not taught history. Instead his career has been devoted to pupils with special needs.
At 40 he retrained as an educational psychologist. "You've got to see a child as a child," he said. "Sometimes teachers see them in terms of the problem they present in class. We come in from the outside, with a different perspective."
As an educational psychologist in Norfolk, the father of two sons and one daughter, he has successfully integrated a number of foundation stage pupils, avoiding the need for statements before the age of five. He has also developed a programme which enables children with severe special needs to work with mainstream pupils occasionally. "There was a question that it would interfere with the learning of mainstream pupils, but they actually gained," he said. "They had to think about how people learn. That's when insight and learning begins to develop."
In his new role representing the 3,000 educational psychologists in the country, Mr Ward wants to promote the need to treat children in the round.
"Children are stressed because of exams and tests. I'd like to see focus on the value of being educated, rather than learning for exams," he said.
Mr Ward also believes that the trend towards large schools is often daunting for vulnerable children. "Some children do better in smaller schools," he said. "We need to help mainstream schools to deal with socially or educationally vulnerable children."
Anyone who wants to work as an educational psychologist must complete a three-year doctorate which includes academic work and practical experience.