What's my job... Educational psychologist

25th November 2005 at 00:00
I've always loved being an educational psychologist. My job is endlessly fascinating and challenging. In any week, an EP could be assessing a child's cognitive abilities, working with a child, teacher and parent to help devise an anger management programme, or providing in-service training on topics such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), language development or emotional literacy, or sitting on panels and working groups.

But now that I am principal EP in Brighton and Hove, I rarely have casework.

Much of my time is spent on management tasks, panels or Children's Trust groups. The service is thinking creatively about how we can extend our support to children, families and schools in the community and maintaining work with educational settings.

The one area of casework I have kept is "critical incidents" such as the death of a child, teacher or parent. Even in a small authority, critical incidents occur quite often. In recent years we have supported schools after the death of a child or teacher and a suicide attempt by a teenager and the suicide of a parent. How do you tell six-year-olds that their classmate has died? Is it OK for a class teacher to cry in front of the children? What can you say to support staff trying to cope with the death of their friend and colleague?

If you're the head, how do you hold it all together when you are feeling the loss as acutely as anyone? Dealing with traumatic events is always emotionally draining and can take a heavy toll on teachers' emotional resources. One key task on these occasions is to reduce the long-term impact of trauma on staff.

My role is to lead and co-ordinate the psychological support from EPs to the school and to provide the head and staff (and sometimes children and parents) with a calm reference point to help "hold" the school.

I am available at the end of a phone for immediate response to any queries and, in most cases, the school EP and I arrange to meet the staff within two days of first contact. We may also provide psychological support to groups of children.

Hass Yilmaz was talking to Carolyn O'Grady

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