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Educational Psychology and the early years: early hope(s) for the future

01 February 2021 | by Guest

To mark children’s mental health week, Educational Psychologist Dr Abigail Wright shares her thoughts on the role of educational psychologists in the early years settings, the impact of Covid-19 on her work, and looks to the future.

Although I am extremely passionate about highlighting the range of work which early years educational psychologists (EPs) can do, I am also extremely mindful that at the time of writing this blog, it would not feel authentic if we did not acknowledge the challenges that Covid-19 has brought. 

Such challenges have been anything but exclusive to early years settings, or for those supporting them.

As an EP, some key concerns at the forefront of my mind have been the increased potential to lose ‘the voice of the child’, whilst physical contact with them and families is reduced.

This directly relates to growing concerns of increased inequalities for our children and young people, and their families.

Recently, the Parent Infant Foundation along with Best Beginnings and Home-Start UK, conducted a survey of families’ experiences of lockdown during their babies’ first 1001 days.

Their findings highlighted the lack of support for families and the inequalities of babies’ early experiences.

In spite of these challenges, this time has also brought unique (albeit inescapably pressured!) opportunities to urge us to be creative and use our skills as psychologists to be adaptive, and apply psychology to new contexts to meet these changing/new needs.

For instance, in the EP service where I work we have developed an early years telephone support line where parents/carers of children aged 2-3 years old, living in the local authority, can request an initial 30-minute consultation with an EP.

This time has also urged us to think about ways of developing new connections for our children and young people, as well as our colleagues, people we work with, and ourselves.

We can use psychology to aid us in this, and much of my advice has focused on developing ways to help adults to do this with children, for example, through developing resources and information for families and settings.

Another positive addition we have created is monthly EP led ‘Work it together Wednesday’ virtual sessions that are available to everyone working with/in early years settings in the local authority.

These are hour long, informal and friendly sessions that focus on a range of different topics that can help us to support young children e.g., supporting children’s emotions, child-led play ideas, and supporting transitions in the early years.

We really have ‘opened new (virtual) doors’ in terms of our accessibility to all adults involved in supporting early years children (e.g. parents and those working within/for education settings).

We have also developed a pilot project to capture the voice of young children through approaches using video technology, for example, such as digital stories (ACoRNS).

Technology has been helpful, but it’s also important to emphasise that psychology has also allowed us to help to develop ways to increase our human connections without just relying on technology, which we will continue to need as the pandemic continues and we transition out of it.

As an EP specialising in the early years, I truly feel that this is a crucial time to showcase and celebrate the role of all those working within and supporting the early years, and most importantly the value of our early years children - as they are key to our hopes for what we would like the future to become.

Going forward, I really feel the opportunities are endless for educational and child psychologists to work in collaboration with parents and others working in the early years, to increase the quality and impact of the support available in the early years and to support children’s development at the earliest stages (for example, during the antenatal period and with young babies too).

I believe that working within the early years is one of the most hopeful places we can be in supporting the future of our society.

- Dr Abigail Wright

Abigail is an early years lead educational psychologist for a local authority in South Wales and a BPS Division of Educational and Child Psychology Committee Member.

She has written articles and blogs related to her special interests in the early years, play, caregiving and attachment, social communication and interaction, and autistic spectrum condition.

Abigail is also a mum to two preschool aged girls.


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