The Educational Psychology Service
The aims of the Orkney Islands Council Educational Psychology Service are as follows:
- To provide high quality psychological services which meet the statutory obligations of Orkney Islands Council.
- To ensure that children have access to appropriate educational experiences which optimise their learning and social development.
- To work co-operatively and collaboratively with young people and their parents, schools and other agencies.
- To promote the principles of inclusion.
- To contribute to the development of children's and young people's emotional well being, independence and abilities and opportunities to exercise choice as adults.
The Education Scotland Act 1980 as amended, requires every local council to have a psychological service. The Children Scotland Act 1995 did not directly change the remit of psychological services but it does continue to have a bearing on it. Like everyone else, the Educational Psychology Service is bound by the general principles of the Act - the best interests of the child must be paramount in making any decisions about him or her, children must be consulted when major decisions are taken about them whenever they are able to understand the implications, and formal action must not be taken in relation to a child unless that is clearly in his or her best interests.
The Act also directs the Educational Psychology Service to another group of clients - those children and young people who are affected by the disability of a member of their family.
Recent legislation which has had an effect on the work of the Educational Psychology Service includes the Standards in Scotland's Schools Act 2000 which incorporates into legislation the duty to include children with learning or social or emotional difficulties in mainstream provision except in very exceptional circumstances, the Disability Discrimination Act 2001 which strengthens the rights of disabled people to have every access to a full range of services and the Act which gives local authorities a duty to develop and maintain an Accessibility Strategy. The Education Disability and Pupils' Education Records Scotland Act 2002 has clarified the rights of parents to have access to information held about their children.
The Education Additional Support for Learning Scotland Act 2004 creates a new structure for the provision of additional support needs to children. The concept of "special educational need" disappears and along with it, the Record of Needs system. Instead, educational authorities have a duty to identify when children have "additional support needs" and, when these are significant, long lasting and require input from other agencies as well as education, the education authority may have a duty to develop a "Co-ordinated Support Plan". The legislation builds on existing processes of providing additional support to children and young people through a process of staged intervention and offers psychologists an opportunity to establish an appropriate role within that system.
The Educational Psychology Service is in a central position within the Pupil Support Sector and also has effective links with the wider Education Department Management team, one link being the Principal Psychologist's membership of the QAI Team. The service is well consulted about an appropriate range of policy development.
Educational Psychologists provide a number of services:
- Consultation about any areas relating to children's emotional development or learning. This would involve discussions about issues relating to learning or emotional development or general concerns relating to groups of children, or an individual child, without the involvement of the children or their parents. In these discussions, children would not be identified.
- Consultation about the difficulties of a particular child. This would differ from the above in that children would be identified and their parents, and often the children themselves, would be involved. Discussions would be formally recorded and progress would be reviewed, periodically, as necessary.
- Direct assessment of an individual child's needs. This would usually be decided on at a consultation meeting as described above. The work would be negotiated by the agency which had convened the meeting, or directly by the parent, with the psychologist being asked to assess specific areas of need.
- Casework. Following an assessment, it might be decided that the psychologist should continue to be involved with the child and/or their family. If this is the case then the psychologist would report back at agreed intervals to the agency which had negotiated the work. Usually the consultation meetings, as described above, would continue so as to check on progress.
- Therapy. In a small number of cases, the continuing involvement might take the form of therapeutic intervention with the child.
- In-Service Training. The psychologist is able to provide in-service training in a number of areas.
- Project Work. The psychologist might become involved in special projects such as research studies or the management or evaluation of new developments.
A consultancy model has been adopted by the Educational Psychology Service. Regular visits to schools are made to discuss approaches to supporting learning.
Except in circumstances set out in legislation, the Educational Psychology Service does not make contact with children without their parents' approval. The Children Scotland Act 1995 insists that we must consider the views of the children and young people before taking major decisions which affect them. This includes arranging for them to be seen by the Educational Psychology Service. Children over 12 are presumed in law to be old enough to express their views on this and other matters. The Educational Psychology Service encourages parents and professionals to discuss possible contact with a psychologist with children much younger than this when appropriate.