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The Journey from Equality to Equity: A tale from the ‘Wee County’

Clackmannanshire is known as the ‘Wee County’ – the smallest mainland Local Authority in Scotland with a ‘Big Heart’.

Context

Clackmannanshire has significant levels of deprivation and high percentages of young children living in poverty with all the associated disadvantages and adverse childhood experiences (ACE) that come with low socio-economic status.

Three years ago Clackmannanshire Educational Psychology Service (Clacks EPS) was re-established after some time as a shared service with Stirling. The service established its vision and values to guide its continuous improvement planning.

Vision

Using psychological theory and knowledge to deliver excellence in and equity of Educational Psychology Services, when and where required.

Values:

  • We are committed to providing an efficient, targeted and equitable service.
  • We believe that social and emotional well-being is at the heart of excellence – for our children, families and partners and also of our team.

So started a journey towards an equitable, excellent and efficient service. This post will focus on one element of the journey – from equality to equity. We’ve also written a fuller and more in-depth account of other aspects of this journey.

Definition of Equity

Equity is a longstanding priority of the National Improvement Framework (NIF) set out by the Scottish Government in 2016 and continued into 2020.

Equity is defined as

Ensuring every child has the same opportunity to succeed, with a particular focus on closing the poverty related attainment gap

NIF (2019)

We do not all need the same things to succeed; we need different things at different times to support our wellbeing and progress. We have all seen the graphics of people standing on boxes to look over the fence, or the assessment process of elephants being told to climb a tree.

An equitable service needs to be differentiated to offer the right thing, at the right time, for the right individual with processes and procedures that support equitable access to services.

Historical Model of Service Delivery

At the beginning of the process Clacks EPS operated a traditional school allocation model, based on equality, where an Educational Psychologist (EP) was allocated to a set of schools to be their link and provide the five Currie (2002) functions:

  • Consultation
  • Assessment
  • Intervention
  • Training
  • Research

EPs delivered these functions across the three levels of the child/family, school and local authority .

An equality driven allocations model meant that schools all received the same service. In reality however, not all EPs have the same skill set and would be led by school priorities rather than Authority level ones. This resulted in young people having a varied service depending on postcode and is not equitable.

From Equality to Equity

The vision was for the Currie roles to be delivered across the team, rather than as individuals. While one member of the team might be part of the consultation and assessment team, another might be part of the development and research team.

Our universal service would become a Telephone Consultation Service (TCS) where need would be established across the Authority and any further involvement prioritised on a needs-led basis.

The TCS was established to ‘triage’ calls from schools and parents/carers before further consultation, face-to-face in schools, was agreed to. From this consultation, specific outcomes were identified and ongoing actions agreed. If these involved an EP the best person for the role would be agreed at the Service Delivery Group (SDG) and a member of the assessment team or intervention team allocated to complete the agreed work.

For those in the research or training team, priorities were centralised and aligned under Authority priorities.  Training would now be delivered centrally through a Continuing Learning and Professional Learning (CLPL) platform for educators to access. The team would also work to deliver on closing the poverty-related attainment gap through the practical translation of the Neurosequential Model in Education (Perry and Hambrik 2008) to the classroom, now known as Readiness for Learning (R4L).

As an authority-wide approach it would involve training over 1100 members of staff and linking with a university to research its effectiveness. By having a dedicated mobilisation team this happened at an authority level, and the impact has been established faster than if it was developed on a school by school basis.

This team approach would allow us to be ‘greater than the sum of our parts’ and be flexible in response to priorities that arrive. Focused pieces of work could be achieved with clear outcomes that would evidence impact with a team of EPs skills to hand. In a time of austerity the pie would not need to be cut up in ever more inventive ways, instead transforming the service delivery model allowed for a new approach to working.

Reflections

The whole team approach to delivering the Currie functions has enabled Clacks EPS to be focused and clear on what can be achieved and established strong links at the heart of the Education Service.

Through making the transition from an equality driven service to an equity focused one, the team have been able to focus on what is really needed and where and therefore been able to make an effective contribution in the lives of our young people.


References

Currie, E. (2002). Review of Provision of Educational Psychology Services in Scotland. Scottish Executive.

Education Scotland (2019.) Educational Psychology Services in Scotland: Making a difference to excellence and equity for all: Outcomes from inspection evidence 2015 to 2018.

Perry, B. and Hambrick, E. (2008) The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics. Reclaiming Children and youth. Search.proquest.com

Scottish Government (2016). National Improvement Framework for Scottish Education. Edinburgh

Scottish Government (2019). Achieving Excellence and Equity 2020 National Improvement Framework and Improvement Plan. Edinburgh.


About Liz Owen

Liz Owen has been an Educational Psychologist for 14 years and currently works in Clackmannanshire. She has worked with several models of service delivery and finds the one described in this article to be innovative, equitable and fulfilling.

View all posts by Liz Owen

About Clacks EPS

View all posts by Clacks EPS



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