Case study

Educational psychologist — Dannika

Dannika is as an educational psychologist for a local authority educational psychology service, which works in partnership with young people, their families and schools. Discover how she is able to support the children’s educational, social and emotional development

What degree did you study?

I graduated with a BSc Psychology from Royal Holloway University of London. I later went on complete a Doctorate in Educational and Child Psychology at UCL.

How did you get your job?

My first job after graduating from university was as a learning support assistant (LSA) for young people (post-16) with SEND at a college. I did this for an academic year and then moved onto a mainstream secondary school where I worked for two years, first as a teaching assistant and then as an intervention tutor. Following this I got onto the Doctorate course.

During the third year of the course, we were advised to look for jobs. I found my current post with a local authority educational psychology service in London on a recruitment website and applied by completing an application form. I was interviewed by the principal educational psychologist and two senior psychologists and was offered a job later that day. As the offer was in the autumn term of my final year, I didn't start my role until I had graduated the following summer.

What's a typical working day like?

A typical day involves a school visit in the morning. Our main point of contact is the school’s special educational needs coordinator (SENCO), who typically refers pupils to us.

During a school visit I might have a consultation with a parent and teacher of a referred child. Following this, I might observe the child in class, and depending on the need I will do an individual assessment with them. This could range from a standardised assessment to a dynamic assessment or assessments focusing on their emotional needs.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I most enjoy working directly with pupils, either during assessment or if I am running a group of some kind. It's rewarding working with pupils and discovering something about them that adds to the understanding that their parents and teachers have about them, so that they can better support their needs.

What are the challenges?

There never seems to be enough time to reach every child who needs support. Also, when prioritising individual casework, little time is left for systemic or group work, as individual casework is often prioritised by schools. However, this can vary from school to school depending on their priorities. I have been able to run some really interesting and helpful training for teachers and LSAs where time has been made.

In what way is your degree relevant?

My degree in psychology gave me the foundations for my work now, both in terms of theories such as behaviourism, attribution and theory, and various research methods.

The doctorate taught us how to do the job, refined our research skills (which I apply on a daily basis) and taught us the bread and butter of what our job is about.

How has your role developed?

I am in my third qualified year and am developing fluency in my role, as well as the confidence to be creative and think on my feet.

Eventually, I'd like to take on a more senior role, but before that I'd like to experiment with different ways of doing my job as there are lots of ways to support children and young people, families and teachers as an educational psychologist.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into this job?

  • Get relevant experience and think about how you’re applying psychology in your role.
  • Network and work shadow educational psychologists (where possible) or meet with an educational psychologist in your local authority.
  • Keep up to date with psychological research and developments in educational policy and practice.

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