Division of Educational and Child Psychology 2015

In January 2015 the DECP annual conference took place in Durham. The event was titled 'Applying Creative Psychology to Education, Children and Young People'.  There were three strands to the conference: the mental health and well-being of children and young people, work with 16-125 year olds and a critical review of the concept of dyslexia.  Dr Lucy Johnson, presented a keynote paper 'Beyond psychiatric diagnosis: critiques and alternatives', that challenged the prevalence of the medical model and placed emphasis on the importance of context. This complemented the earlier keynote presentation by Vivian Hill and Horatio Turner, which reported on the recent survey conducted by the DECP and the Institute of Education, 'The medicalization of childhood behaviour - a focus on ADHD'. The study made the front page of the Guardian in December 2014 as it highlighted the inappropriate use of medication in pre-school children and further highlighted the importance of contextual factors in making sense of children’s behaviour and in formulating appropriate interventions.

These presentations stimulated further debate about the paradigms that inform applied educational psychology and the core features of appropriate assessment and intervention work in the field.

Professor Julian Elliott and Dr Kate Saunders provided a stimulating head to head debate on the topic of Does dyslexia exist? This is an ever-controversial aspect of EPs work. The session highlighted the dearth of coherent research evidence in support of the concept, whilst also highlighting the genuine needs of children and young people, sparking a lively debate about whether the concept is of value or validity. Many delegates noted that they were working on new policy statements for their local authorities and had found the debate challenging and informative.

The third strand of the conference focused on EPs work with 16-25 year olds. The extended age range reflects the developments of the new SEND legislation and linked well with developmental work conducted by the DECP committee to develop guidance on working with this age range.

The conference includes a full day dedicated to the research conducted by Trainee EPs during their doctorate. The event continues to go from strength to strength and included representatives from all national training programmes and included 125 trainees.  The focus of the event is always on disseminating research findings to support the on-going development of evidence-based practice. The conference provides an opportunity for newly qualified EPs to meet the DECP Committee and to join the division.  It is an increasing trend that trainees present at both the trainee day and the main conference. 

Professional development

Each year the DECP hosts a number of topic based day training courses for the profession. The content of the programme reflects a needs analysis, which is conducted at the annual conference.

Research activity

The DECP has sponsored a secondment of an Educational Psychologist to work in the Centre for Outcomes, Research and Evaluation (CORE) at UCL. The post was advertised and we were delighted to have a number of well-qualified applicants. Isabel Gregory was appointed and is now working under the guidance of Professor Steven Pilling, the director of CORE. She is learning how to apply the rigorous evaluation methods developed in CORE to the work of EPs. There is a steering group, which includes all major stakeholders in the profession and at a recent meting it was agreed that the focus of her work in the first instance would be reviewing the evidence base for interventions for children’s mental health needs.

We have completed a survey of innovative practice in applied educational psychology and will publish a journal article in Educational and Child Psychology and produce a guide to 21st century EP practice in due course.

A further development of our Medicalising Childhood Behaviour initiative has been to sponsor a trial, and evaluation of the Nurtured Heart Approach, a parenting intervention that is an alternative to medication for children and young people who present with impulsive and hyperactive behaviour.  This was presented at our recent conference and will be published in Educational and Child Psychology.

Cross-Divisional collaboration

We have developed positive links and have worked closely with colleagues in the DCP on the Health Education England and Department For Education review of the training of Clinical and Educational Psychologists.  The review has recently been published and there will be further developments over the coming year. We have liaised with colleagues in the DCP ‘Beyond diagnoses’ group.  

Professional liaison

We meet regularly with colleagues from the DFE and have been evaluating the impact of the SEND legislation. This has helped highlight shortages of EPs and helped provide the evidence for a small increase in the numbers of training places for EPs.

We also liaise regularly with the Association of Educational Psychologists and Representatives of EP training providers.

Accreditation of training

The DECP training committee has recently reviewed and updated the accreditation criteria for EP training programmes.

Publications

In response to the increasing levels of concern about children’s mental health the DECP Committee has produced guidance for educational psychologists on the use of psychological therapies in schools. This is ready for publication.

A book about research techniques with children has been completed and is due for publication.

The DECP and Institute of Education survey of the profession’s perspective on ADHD has been presented at conference and a paper has been prepared for Educational and Child Psychology.

The DECP continues to publish on a quarterly basis both Debate and Educational and Child Psychology, a peer reviewed and well respected professional journal.

Vivian Hill, Chair