Newly qualified EPs: 10 tips from the #twittereps community
As I write this it has been a whole year since I braced myself to start work as a newly qualified EP.
It felt surreal, exciting but daunting and I remember feeling completely unprepared to lose the title of ‘trainee.’ A year later as I sit here scared to lose the title of ‘newly qualified’ I realise now that being EP is not about knowing everything but about having solid foundations, which the doctorate training provides.
This year I tried to focus on building relationships. Relationships with colleagues, with schools, with families and children and young people. At times, when I felt overwhelmed (because yes, it is normal to sometimes not quite feel in control all the time) I reminded myself that as long as I try my best, I listen to what families are telling me and create a warm safe space in which they feel heard and valued, I could not overly go wrong.
As I begin to think about the next year and what I hope to improve on and achieve, I was pleased to see come across a tweet by @KateGobourn reaching out into the wonderful world of Twitter for advice on managing life as a newly qualified EP. The EP community came out strong and supportive and here are some of the tips they shared. There were also contributions from teachers, parents, SEND support services, speech and language therapists and SEND action groups.
Learn about processes and wider systems
Taking the time to learn where you fit within SEND systems and with other colleagues was seen to help in understanding your role and help with report writing.
I thought of something else! Ask to observe decision making panels – it will help you to better understand how EP work connects with the wider SEND system. E.g decisions on provision and placements. I promise it will help you to refine your report writing skills.— Dr Helen Tyson (@Helen_Tyson) August 31, 2022
Colleagues suggested it is helpful to take time to build relationships with the schools you work with, and with colleagues from health, social care and wider services.
Introduce yourself to your DCO— Juliet Ridgway (@JRidgwayGoodban) August 31, 2022
Invest time in small talk/problem free talk with SENDCOs, HTs and other colleagues – relationships are everything and it’s trickier now things are often virtual.— Dr Helen Tyson (@Helen_Tyson) August 30, 2022
Take your time
Excited? It can be tempting to jump straight in. Give yourself time to settle in and seek opportunities to connect with and shadow colleagues. Oh, and take notes! It is likely you will be given a lot of information during your induction and it will be near impossible to remember it all.
Pace yourself. It can be tempting to get stuck in right away, especially if a service is under pressure. Ask questions, speak to colleagues about what they do at this time of year, tag along to meetings to help find your feet and don’t schedule too many things at once. Good luck!— Dr Chris Moore (@DrChrisMooreEP) August 30, 2022
Take your time to settle in & get to know people.— Sarah Sivers (@SarSivers) August 30, 2022
It is OK to feel uncertain, excited & overwhelmed…all the other NQs are probably feeling the same way ( I know I did)
Sending good vibes
Give yourself the time you need to find out about the service, the local area and start networking with relevant agencies through your induction period. Ask questions and take opportunities to see what other people do/ how they do it. You’ll be fab 🙂— Rachael Hayes (@rachaelhayes81) August 30, 2022
Congratulations! Take many notes from conversations, that you reread and review in coming weeks. People will give you key information they think you will remember – whilst your head is spinning.— Nettie 🇦🇺 (@nettiexxxx) August 30, 2022
Be specific when giving advice
When writing your psychological advice, think about whether it is fit for purpose. Does it describe what needs to be done to support the child or young person and who needs to do it? Be specific.
There’s a lot of things we would all benefit from. What should be writing is what is required and then what that provision is designed to achieve. If we do X then Y should happen. Important to set review dates. If Y is not achieved in timescale, what are the next steps? Nothing?— Not all those who wander are lost (@VoicesofSEND) August 31, 2022
Be strengths focused
Think about the impact of the words you use and how the child and family will feel reading your report. Take time to reflect on your assessment information and what it means in relation to the context of the child. Drawing out the child’s strengths can be key to positive change. Be the cheerleader that the child needs.
As an ex-psychologist: be very careful when writing reports. Make sure that numbers from psychometric tests are reported with context heavily in mind. Use compassionate language. Focus on strengths not deficits. Average/aggregate score are v rarely useful; subtests more important— Jordan Peterson’s Dragon Archetype (@MrKTeachWrite) August 31, 2022
Do things to prioritise your wellbeing
Hopefully, you will be working in this profession for a long time. That means you need to take care of yourself. Some tips included booking in annual leave in advance, ensuring you have enough admin days to clear the ‘to-do’ list and having clear boundaries by only working your contracted hours. You get your weekends back…yay!
Book in your annual leave so you know when it’s coming- and leave some empty days before it to clear stuff!— Helen chappell (@Helenchappell9) August 30, 2022
Wean yourself off working evenings and weekends, like you probably did during the doctorate. The job is never finished but try and stick to your contacted hours and have a life away from work too. Good luck!— Judith McAlister (@JudithMcAlist10) August 31, 2022
Best of luck! Look after yourself, you need to feel supported and held to do the same for others. And it’s ok not to have all the answers, just make sure to find out and report back when you do— Stacy B (@AceStace09) August 31, 2022
Stay curious, remain open and don’t be afraid to ask for help
Every EP will practice differently and there is beauty in that. Observe others and take bits of practice that fit with what feels right to you. Supervision can be the perfect opportunity for reflection.
The best bit of advice I had as brand new EP was from my amazing and wise supervisor/PEP Chris Lewis. He advised me to ‘be a magpie’ and take a bit of everything/keep open mind. Never forgotten that. And enjoy!— Laura Dee (@EPonSea) August 30, 2022
Be child-centred, always
It can be challenging at times to feel influenced by the needs of schools, parents, or even your organisation. Ensure you are working in the interests of the child or young person was a key bit of advice shared.
Be honest. Remember this is about what a child needs to be their best. It’s not about what schools can afford. I have met some amazing Ed Psychs who held schools accountable. And also some terrible ones who were sycophantic to the LA and schools. You are trained to help children.— Jess Harding (@GreatJessUK) September 1, 2022
Keep learning and make time for CPD
Connecting with certain twitter pages was recommended, along with reading up on legislation and engaging with webinars.
Brilliant to have a new EP. You’ll be busy! Maintain your ideals and the reasons you chose this, and read up on SEND law (which often differs from local policies).— SEND Action (@SEND_Action) August 31, 2022
Do you watch @epreachout Gr8 channel in our opinion.— BAPT (@BAPTplaytherapy) August 31, 2022
Look at the IPSEA website to understand statutory requirements from local authorities who you’ll likely be working with at time. They also have an EHCP checklist that states how a legally binding EHCP should be written.— Sal (@Saland_SaLT) August 31, 2022
Believe in yourself
Remember how big of a mountain the doctorate felt to climb? Well, you have done it! Don’t forget how far you have come. Colleagues shared many messages of congratulations acknowledging the success of finishing training and the unique contribution each EP will make.
You’ve come a long way already. Keep being you. Know that EPs love to help so ask all the questions you need. Enjoy 😊— Anna (@DrAnnaNolan) August 30, 2022
Well done it is a long journey, well done for staying the course— David (@davewecanaccess) August 31, 2022
So they’re some of the tips that #Twittereps and colleagues gave. You might have your own words of wisdom that a newly qualified EP (or I would argue anyone in the profession) might benefit from! If so, comment below!
With thanks to Kate for inspiring this conversation on Twitter and to all the contributors who offered their advice, hints and tips.