Scottish Division of Educational Psychology

Role of the Educational Psychologist

What does an Educational Psychologist in Scotland do? 

Educational Psychologists in Scotland aim to improve the life chances of all.  In fulfilling this aim the role of the educational psychologist is varied in regard the activities engaged in, the focus of work and the populations being worked with/alongside.  This variability is one of the frequently cited reasons why Educational Psychologists in Scotland enjoy their job. 

The work of Educational Psychologists is extensive, covering mainstream and special sectors relating to teaching and learning, behaviour and development. Work is carried out with, or for children and young people aged 0-24 years, parents and carers, educational establishments, education management, as well as a range of agencies, such as social work services and health.

All Educational Psychologists are expected to conform to the standards exemplified in The BPS (British Psychological Society) Code of Ethics and Conduct (2009). Educational psychologists must also be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

The majority of Educational Psychologists working in Scotland are employed by the Local Authority Educational Psychology Service or Psychological Service. There is a statutory duty on every education authority in Scotland to provide a psychological service for their area.  Educational Psychology Services contribute to local and national priorities.  Broad aims of services include enhancing social inclusion, social and emotional well-being of young people and families, and raising attainment. 

The 5 core functions of a Psychological Service were defined by the SEED Review of Provision of Educational Psychology Services in Scotland, 2002 (Currie Report), as:

  • Consultation
  • Assessment
  • Intervention
  • Training
  • Research

Furthermore, the core functions performed by Educational Psychologists were identified as being carried out at the following levels:

  • Child and Family
  • School or Establishment
  • Educational Authority/Council/National


Educational Psychologists provide a wide range of advice and consultancy to service users and educational establishments. They advise and support education management in relation to children and young people with additional support needs. Consultation around individual or groups of children and young people has the aim of promoting inclusion for all. Many Educational Psychology Services work through a consultation model of service delivery, which is a collaborative, preventative, problem solving approach. By working with and through the main people involved, in order to facilitate change, Educational Psychologists use psychology to empower others to solve problems.


Assessment is a process that involves the gathering of information from a variety of sources in a range of settings over a period of time. It necessarily involves parents, carers, teachers, and children and young people. The purpose of assessment is to inform future intervention and therefore it encompasses cognitive, emotional and social factors. The ultimate aim of effective Educational Psychology assessment is to limit the effects of barriers to learning and to promote inclusion of the child or young person. Assessment may be based on direct or indirect involvement with the child and by a combination of both. Information gathered from others may be supplemented by approaches including classroom observation, analysis or work, questionnaires, curriculum-based assessment and use of recognised assessment tools where appropriate. Educational Psychologists in Scotland operate in accordance with current practice as summarised in Educational Psychology Assessment in Scotland (2014), compiled on behalf of ASPEP (Association of Principal Educational Psychologists) and SDEP) the Scottish Division of Educational Psychology).


Educational Psychologists offer a wide range of evidence-informed interventions to service users in relation to individual, or groups of, children and young people with additional support needs. Effective interventions aim to foster collaborative working and the sharing of professional skills.

Examples of interventions carried out by Educational Psychologists include: contributions to local-authority wide interventions (solution-oriented approaches, motivated schools, alternatives to exclusion, promoting inclusion), contribution to whole establishment interventions (raising achievement, anti-bullying, promoting positive playgrounds), contribution to devising behaviour management and individual education plans and working with small groups. 

Intervention methods are based on best practice and conform to the British Psychological Society's Code of Ethics and Conduct. Interventions are carefully planned and implemented on the basis of agreed action plans. They are designed to be effective but also minimal, unobtrusive, efficient and equitable, and should co-ordinate with work being done by colleagues from other professions.


Educational Psychologists are well placed to offer and support training to a range of service providers and educational establishments. Training offers an opportunity for educational psychologists to support others in linking research and psychological theory with practice. Educational Psychologists have knowledge of learning, behaviour and development of children and young people as well as an understanding of the systems they are working in including the local and national contexts and policy and legislative frameworks. Training should be based on assessment of the needs of the learners to identify the most appropriate training and the most suitable way of conveying information. It should be evaluated and followed-up in order to facilitate the utilisation of newly acquired information and skills in practice.


A growing area of the Educational Psychologists core work is that of research. Research is a main strand of all psychology disciplines and an Educational Psychologist’s training has a large focus on experimental design both in clinical and real world settings, research methodologies, data collection and analysis. Working within education, Educational Psychologists are in a key position to support and carry out research to evolve an evidence base for educational practice, inform policy and strategy, explore new ideas and to evaluate and encourage reflective practice.

Work Carried out by Educational Psychologists

The majority of Local Authority Educational Psychology Services have websites which provide more specific details about the work carried out locally, and the structure of the Service.  A number of Services highlight the following as being central to the practice of Educational Psychologists:

  • Promoting and enhancing emotional / psychological well-being
  • Promoting and enhancing effective learning and teaching
  • Supporting children and young people to achieve their potential
  • Promoting and supporting inclusion for all
  • Collaboration – with other professionals, families and children and young people
  • Confidentiality and ethics
  • Adopting a “most effective, least intrusive” approach to assessment and intervention
  • Promoting social justice
  • Adopting a child-centred approach
  • The use of evidence to inform and innovate
  • Supporting children and young people to fulfill the goals of Curriculum for Excellence

Examples of Educational Psychology practice include:

  • Building resilience in children
  • Enhancing emotional wellbeing and emotional literacy
  • Working to support difficulties in relation to attachment and loss
  • Supporting the development of nurturing approaches and inclusion
  • WOWW: working on what works, to improve classroom behaviour and relationships
  • Supporting vulnerable learners with transitions
  • Thinking skills work around mindsets
  • Use of positive psychology in interventions
  • Community psychology approaches


For more information, please browse the Educational Psychology websites in Scotland - see our links page.