Educational Psychologists (EPs)

The profession has grown since early last century in discovering and working with children with educational difficulties in France, U.S.A. and U.K..  There are now numbers of EPs working in all local education authorities and independently in the U.K., and many countries.


EPs in the U.K. usually have a degree in psychology, teacher training, a minimum of 3 years’ teaching experience and post-graduate training.  This training and experience have been revised to post-graduate training.  EPs focus on a scientific view of the development of children’s thinking and reasoning, education, language, emotions and social relations.  They belong to professional bodies: the British Psychological Society or the Association of Educational Psychologists and are registered with the Health Professionals Council in the U.K..


EP work centres on learning difficulties.  They clarify difficulties, and the ways they can be improved and supported.  Sample areas for working include: generally slower development; specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia; language, hearing and visual difficulties; and finding strengths and weaknesses in children with physical and neurological difficulties.  EPs will often also work with behaviour and emotional problems such as attention deficit (ADD).


There can be confusion between EPs and psychiatrists.  Psychiatrists have a degree in medicine and further specialist training and experience.  They work in areas such as: emotional and personality development; family relations; and physical and neurological problems.  There are a small number of psychiatrists in each health authority in the U.K.. 


Background and history can be taken through discussion, a questionnaire and reports.


The child or adult is seen for about 2 hours in an initial full assessment.  This type of assessment is possible from about 4 years to adults; it offers a high level of reliability from about 6+ years.  The assessment largely consists of questions and puzzles, and some literacy and number measures, and conversation. It is generally seen as enjoyable; it is highly individual and supported.

Results delivered include: overall abilities in verbal and non-verbal areas; strengths in reasoning and thinking; literacy and number levels; weaknesses in thinking and processing; and personal, emotional and study perspectives.


The results are discussed immediately following assessment and a detailed report is sent within 2 weeks.

Relation to other assessments

The need for EP assessment may well be triggered by: other screenings or assessments; parental and school observations; known effects on education such as hearing difficulties, family disruption or school movement; and a desire for a survey of the person’s development


Schools’ screening and assessment will suggest children at risk of difficulties.


Those at risk children are often further assessed by their class teacher or a SENCO/specialist teacher.  Teacher assessment can offer clear levels to literacy, number and school curricula, and guidance to teaching programmes.  It will be less reliable in gauging overall development and abilities, and strengths and weaknesses in the more specific development of thinking and language.  EP assessment will be helpful in judging broad curriculum levels and types, associated school placements, and the nature of difficulties such as general slower development, dyslexia/specific learning difficulties, language difficulties and dyspraxia.


Other specialist assessments, such as those of speech and language therapists, will detail development in the professional’s area of specialisation, but may, again, show less clarity in judging the difficulties against general development and thinking. 


Overall abilities and verbal skills will indicate suitable levels of curricula.  Specific intellectual, reasoning and learning strengths will indicate areas in school for likely particular success.

Weaknesses in thinking will clarify reasons for educational difficulty.  For example, dyslexics often show relative weaknesses in their language work, such as using sounds, short term memory, and finding information and words.  Strengths and weaknesses in thinking will indicate areas for particular emphasis and support in teaching.

Literacy and number skills are compared with abilities and overall development.  Specific weaknesses in key school skills are identified.


This patterning in abilities, thinking and basic school skills will guide a menu of areas which might benefit from structured attentions, or specialist teaching or therapy.  This could include, for example: phonic teaching of spelling; visual or sounds training; reinforcement of number bonds; a cursive writing style; and IT support. 


Observations will be made regarding personality, motivation, perception of strengths and weaknesses, and independence/success in study and problem solving.  There are inevitably interactions between these features and learning successes and difficulties.


Overall findings will guide school placement, the nature and level of curriculum, handling, specific assistance, parental involvement, counselling, and further investigation and input.


Over the last years, EPs in the U.K. and other countries have recommended the need for special arrangements in public examinations.  These arrangements are often extra time, especially for dyslexia.  In the U.K., specialist teachers may perform assessment for GCSE, A Level and IB examinations.  The special needs arrangements in examinations are arranged by the school or exam centre.


EPs are involved in educational advice and examination arrangements in Further Education and Higher Education.  An EP assessment is used in order to consider a Disabled Student’s Award for dyslexia in the U.K. that can provide support services in universities and equipment such as a PC and printer.