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Advice to education policy makers following Covid-19

A joint report from two UK Educational Psychology Services: recommendations based on pupils views and psychological theory.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, Nottingham City Council and Southend-On-Sea Educational Psychology Services collaborated to produce a report outlining the results of a survey that was returned by 1758 pupils across both localities.

The survey aimed gain pupil views in relation to their education and experiences during the pandemic. The aim of the joint report was to inform policy and decision-makers at all levels (local and central government, Local Authorities and schools) and to begin a conversation that generates change in education.

In our joint report, we presented five key themes from analysis of the views that pupils shared:

  • Basic Needs
  • Preparedness
  • Relationships and Connections
  • Learning and Expectations
  • Opportunities

In the full report the themes are explored through the lens of three psychological frameworks: the Hierarchy of Needs (Maslow, 1954; 1987); the Eco-Systemic Model (Bronfenbrenner, 1977; 1979) and the Power Threat Meaning Framework (Johnstone & Boyle, 2018). We drew upon both the voice of pupils and these psychological frameworks to provide the following joint recommendations.


1. Prioritise community re-engagement

Policies should prioritise community re-engagement and rebuilding, in schools and beyond, and shift away from a dominant narrative of “catch up” for learners. (Self-esteem / Self-actualisation)

2. Support a graduated return to academic work in schools

LAs and central government policy makers should support schools in planning for a graduated return to academically rigorous work, enabling schools to have flexible responses to learners, to rebuild and consolidate their learning over time in an achievable and realistic way (Safety & Emotional Needs)

3. ‘Recovery curriculum’ funding should prioritise social and emotional health

The LA and schools should ensure that funding for the ‘recovery curriculum’ sees social and emotional health as the priority. (Emotional & Esteem Needs)

4. Provide support to ensure schools have finances to meet needs and get timely access to professionals

The LA and central government should ensure all schools have finances to meet needs and timely access to professionals who can support schools to prioritise children’s mental health in September, as well as direct services for children and young people (Basic & Emotional needs)

5. Prioritise access to services that support staff wellbeing

The LA should ensure all school staff have access to services that can support staff well-being and training in trauma-informed approaches to create an ethos of care and co-regulation (Safety & Emotional Needs)

6. Specifically consider and meet the needs of vulnerable groups

The LA and central government should ensure that vulnerable groups who were already at risk of long-term disadvantage gain appropriate resources to enable them to enjoy success in their learning and not experience further disadvantage because of COVID-19. These groups include:

  • Black and Minority Ethic (BAME) pupils;
  • care experienced pupils;
  • pupils with Special Educational Needs;
  • pupils at risk of or currently excluded from school;
  • pupils with health needs. (Basic Needs)

7. Support school to identify and support children who Emotionally Based School Avoidance (ESBA)

The LA and central government should support schools in identifying and working with children who show Emotionally Based School Avoidance (EBSA), and their families. Local policy on a graduated response to EBSA should be created and disseminated to schools. (Emotional Needs)

We suggest that these recommendations should form the basis of more in-depth conversation about the change that is needed in education. To follow on from this blog Dr Maddi Popoola will present the findings in relation to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in more detail to highlight the importance of using psychological frameworks to understand experiences.

This blog is a companion piece to ‘Power in EP collaboration: making sense of pupil experiences and key messages‘.

You can reach the author team of this blog on twitter:

About Maddi Popoola

Maddi works for Nottingham City Council and is keen to work with other services to ensure Educational Psychologists are key contributors to national government policy through quality evaluation and research.

View all posts by Maddi Popoola

About Elaine Looney

Elaine is a Lead Specialist Educational Psychologist with Lancashire EPS. Her specialism and professional interests include supporting inclusion for children with Social, Emotional & Mental Health needs.

View all posts by Elaine Looney

About Sarah Sivers

Sarah is an Educational Psychologist working in Southend-on-Sea. Sarah has a particular interest in involving children and young people in understanding and developing their strengths and ensuring they feel thought about and listened to.

View all posts by Sarah Sivers

About Sarah Wendland

Sarah is a newly qualified educational psychologist. Sarah is keen to hear and share the voices of children and young people, she has recently completed her doctoral research exploring the experiences of young people placed into care.

View all posts by Sarah Wendland

About Lauren Baggley

Lauren is a Trainee Educational Psychologist studying at the University of Southampton. She is keen to access and promote pupil voice. Lauren’s special interests include resilience and the use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy approaches.

View all posts by Lauren Baggley

About Kate Boyle

Kate was a Psychology Assistant in Southend and is now a Trainee EP at the Institute of Education. Kate is driven by working holistically with children and young people and seeking opportunities to hear and include their voices and views wherever possible/

View all posts by Kate Boyle

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