Psychologists and trauma in schools

For the first time in 15 years, a major study into how educational psychologists respond to crisis situations, such as school bus accidents and injury to pupils and staff, has taken place.

The research, carried out by British Psychological Society member Dr Matt Beeke of Cambridgeshire Educational Psychology Service at the Institute of Education, University of London, is being presented at the Society’s Division of Education and Child Psychology annual professional development event in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

A survey of 89 educational psychologists was carried out to give an overview of the support they provide following a traumatic event. This was followed up with a series of interviews with a selection of educational psychologists. These sought to examine practice more closely.

Dr Beeke said: “It is clear that educational psychologists have an important role to play in such situations and their contribution is highly valued by school communities.

“It is important that advances in our understanding of the effects of trauma are applied when carrying out this work, as this ensures that interventions are as effective as possible when helping schools.”

The research found that most educational psychology services offer help to schools in crisis situations and that both training and policy for crisis situations is now widespread. Schools were positive about the support they had received.

And the study highlighted the need to ensure educational psychologists receive adequate supervision in such circumstances and the need for robust evaluation of work carried out to ensure it has been effective.

Dr Beeke added: “Future research could focus on the long term impact of traumatic incidents on school communities and how models of Post-Traumatic Growth might be applied in the practice of educational psychologists responding to traumatic incidents.”