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Power in EP collaboration: making sense of pupil experiences and key messages

Mid-way through the C-19 lockdown, our colleagues at Southend-on-Sea sent out a survey to gain pupils views about their education during the pandemic and to gauge how they are feeling about returning to school.

We (EPs in Nottingham City) felt compelled to join this work and replicate the survey in our local area to capture the voice of our children and young people in a point of time that we will all remember for years to come.

The aim 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.

An astounding combined number of 1,758 children and young people from Nottingham City and Southend across all school and college age ranges responded to the questionnaires. We were incredibly moved by the thoughts and experiences that the children and young people shared with us. We believe it is of the utmost importance to share these key messages and use what the pupils told us to guide next steps in education and learning. Our recommendations for policy makers can be found in our companion blog and in our full report.

In our report, we present five key themes:

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

In the full report, we explore these themes using three key psychological frameworks. For the purposes of this article, I want to highlight how the data was understood in relation to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Maslow 1954; 1987).

As we sifted through an abundance of rich data from both localities, the similarities in responses from young people were evident. Several collaborative meetings took place in a virtual capacity, which were fruitful in discussion around themes and key messages from the survey data. As we brought together the views of young people from two very demographically different parts of the UK, it became clear that the shared experiences and needs mapped on to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:

Maslow's needsThemes within dataQuotes from young people
Self-actualisationOpportunities“I wish that my school could continue to do Zoom lessons because that would be more easier for me”
EsteemLearning and expectations“I am nervous as I don't want to get lots of work because we missed a lot of school”
EmotionalRelationships and connectedness“I miss my friends and social interactions”
SafetyPreparedness“I would like to know how it will work because I don’t want to look stupid or embarrassed if I do something wrong”
“I don’t want to take the virus back to my family”
“I want to know it will be safe”
PhysiologicalBasic needs“I have missed snack time”
“I have missed the food”
“I have missed eating”
“I have missed breakfast club”

The pupils’ views showed us the importance of looking at every layer of a child and young person’s life and experiences; both their lived experience and the impact and power of the wider systems around them. To enable pupils to have a full capacity to learn we need to ensure all layers of the Hierarchy of Needs (Maslow, 1954, 1987) are addressed and met.

We also need to keep in mind that the impact of COVID-19 ripples across every layer of life as can be illustrated by the Eco-systemic model (Bronfenbrenner, 1979). The themes emerged from the collective experience of the central element (the individual – the pupil) and ripple back and forth between the layers.

Collaboration in educational psychology

In all of these themes and implications there is a space for Educational Psychologists.

We have shown we can be innovative in our working during times of change and difference. We have shown that we can join together, connect, collaborate and create change for pupils, families and school communities.

We have been honoured to be part of a project to produce the joint report with our Southend colleagues. We have reflected on the strength that joint work brings to Educational Psychologists having a voice when it comes to informing both local and national policy.

Covid-19 has provided us with new and innovative ways of collaborating and we hope to continue with this approach to ensure our profession are rightly valued and our messages are received on a national stage.

The blog is a companion piece to ‘Advice to education policy makers following Covid-19

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