Educational psychology and specialist support (EPSS)

Educational psychology and specialist support (EPSS) is a multi-disciplinary service. It works with children and young people from birth to 25, who might be experiencing a range of challenges. These may include learning, social, emotional, behavioural or communication needs.

The EPSS team works with children and young people in a range of settings, including schools, nurseries and children's centres, colleges, training providers and employers (amongst others). The team works collaboratively with parents, families, SENCOs, teachers, paediatricians, speech and language therapists and others, to maximise life opportunities for children and young people.

EPSS is a learning organisation. As such, the team is engaged in a range of specialist research projects and maintains strong links with a number of universities. Their purpose is being at the forefront of psychological developments, which have a positive impact on the children, young people and families in Norfolk. 

The team is led by two principal educational psychologists (PEPs) who manage a team of EPs, including six senior EPs, a clinical psychologist, specialist teachers and trainee, assistant EPs, and a social worker.

Collectively the team has a broad range of expertise.  This includes, but is not limited to, learning difficulties (such as dyslexia and dyscalculia and specialist interventions such as precision teaching and the use of assistive technology); autism (including the use of specialist communicative approaches such as intensive interaction, PECS and makaton); therapeutic approaches (including the use of CBT, systemic approaches, narrative and arts-based approaches); anti-bullying training; behavioural interventions; community psychology (including best practice in promoting social justice and working with groups who may identify as vulnerable or marginalised) amongst many others.

There are many similarities between EPs and CPs. For example, both EPs and CPs have had extensive training and experience in a range of psychological theory and practice.  Both undertake ongoing continuing professional development.  For clients this often means different psychologists will be able to offer a different range of skills such as therapeutic interventions or specific types of training.  Both will use their expertise in psychology to help move situations forward. EPs and CPs must be registered with and regulated by the Health Care Professions Council to legally practice and use the terms 'educational', 'clinical' or 'practitioner' psychologist in their professional titles.  Both EPs and CPs follow other professional codes of ethics too, such as those outlined by the British Psychological Society.

EP training focuses on children and young people from birth to 25 and the systems within which those children live and work, such as schools, families, and colleges.  Typical areas of work for EPs include removing barriers for those who experience needs in a wide range of areas.  This might include learning and cognition (eg learning difficulties); social and emotional wellbeing (eg bullying, parental and socio-economic influences, stress and anxiety, self-esteem, anger management, promoting emotional well-being, and so on); social interaction and communication; and the impact of other needs on the child or young person's inclusion and participation, such as physical, sensory and mental health issues.

CPs are likely to work in a similar way, offering a range of services from consultation to training, group and individual therapeutic work.  CPs have their own training which includes the entire life-span from children through to older people.  This is reflected in their skill set, for example, the use of therapeutic approaches with systems (schools or families), groups and individuals and to support a range of mental health needs which might include anxiety, depression or self-harm for example. 

EPSS also includes our SLSTs who, as well as being widely experienced in working with children who experience difficulties with learning, hold a range of additional qualifications in areas including dyslexia, autistic spectrum disorder, nurture group theory and practice and solution focused brief therapy.  SLSTs are qualified to identify dyslexia and complete assessments for access arrangements.

SLSTs work alongside EPs to advise schools and parents on meeting educational needs and offer support including consultation and advice, assessment and direct interventions with individual and groups of children.  They can offer a range of interventions including parent workshops, staff training and ‘surgeries’ to discuss individual learning needs.

The critical incident service is part of EPSS and is a multi-disciplinary team trained in trauma management and psychological support who assist education settings following critical incidents.  The CIS receive some core funding from the local authority, and an annual subscription service is offered to academies and independent schools.  The service offer consultations in relation to bereaved children in education settings, providing research based support and advice, as well as referrals to outside agencies.  The CIS also provides training in relation to managing critical incidents and supporting bereaved children.  Please contact Dr Bianca Finger-Berry for further information.

EPSS is a research driven, evidence-based team who strive to be at the cutting-edge of good practice in psychology and education.  Many members of the team have published widely including in peer-reviewed journals, professional periodicals and books.

All of the team undertake a range of continuing professional development activities.  For the EPs and the clinical psychologist this fulfils requirements outlined by the Health Care Professions Council. These endeavours also heavily inform the team's practice, research and training offered to others.

Current projects include:

  • The Wellbeing Toolkit: a skills based training programme in therapeutic tools to foster social and emotional development in children and young people. This programme has been developed by colleagues at the University of East London and the Nurture Group Network. The EPSS team is at the forefront of delivering this programme to schools across Norfolk and evaluating its impact. The 20 session training programme is available to all schools who wish to attend. Queries should be directed to Ms. Rita Adair in the first instance.
  • Person-centred reviews (PCRs). This is a new development project looking at how PCRs can be used to enable the child to communicate their aspirations, fears, strengths and areas for development to a network of supporters (i.e. parents, school staff and other professionals). Collectively, with the support of a facilitator, this network uses the PCR process to find effective and creative solutions which form the basis of a live action plan (ie the focus is on 'doing'). It is hoped that by offering a PCR at an early stage, the Local Offer and support services can be explored and help identify and offer early help. The research element is anticipated to involve a range of stakeholders in order to develop a PCR process which meets the needs of Norfolk residents. Queries should be directed to Dr Nick Hammond in the first instance.
  • The team are currently developing the idea of introducing research assistants to the team. It is anticipated that RAs will work on grassroots research projects to develop innovative and pioneering interventions, processes and assessments. In turn this will provide communities in Norfolk and beyond with creative ways of working which best meet the needs of children, young people and their families. Queries should be directed to Dr James Thatcher in the first instance.
  • Our assistant EPs (AEPs) are currently involved in exploring how the new Code of Practice is being used within early years settings. This innovative project is nationally relevant given the limited research in this area. In Norfolk, developing professional understanding of how this guidance is being used will be crucial in targeting early help and supporting children and families through the new statutory processes.  Queries should be directed to Dr Helena Bunn in the first instance.
  • Ruth Smallwood, Senior Educational Psychologist, has been at the forefront of developing A.R.R.O.W. ™ in primary, secondary and special schools across Norfolk. A.R.R.O.W. ™ is a language and literacy intervention program which aims to develop skills in speaking, listening, reading accuracy, fluency and comprehension, spelling and self-esteem via the use of the self-voice™.  Ruth is the designated trainer for this area and has worked with Dr Sarah Hatfield who is currently running A.R.R.O.W. ™ with the Virtual School for Looked After Children (LAC). Queries relating to the use A.R.R.O.W. ™ with LAC or as an intervention in schools should be directed to Dr Sarah Hatfield or Ruth Smallwood respectively in the first instance.
  • All members of the service are involved with a range of continuing professional development activities. At the bottom of this page you will find examples of research published by and doctorate titles of team members.

The core service is free at the point of delivery and is funded by the local authority.  This work includes assessments under the Children and Families Act 2014 (ie education, health and care plans) and, in some cases, annual reviews, at the discretion and direction of the local authority.  It also includes support for the development of clusters of schools, and some work with particularly vulnerable children.

EPSS is a fully traded service and can be commissioned by individual and clusters of schools, early years providers, further education providers, trainers, employers and others who work with and support children and young people from birth to 25 years old.  Services can be purchased as either packages of support (larger packages for clusters or groups of schools, smaller packages for individual schools),or on an ad hoc basis (subject to availability).

Traded services are predicated on the notion of responsiveness to customer needs, and offer customers an extended offer of graduated responses. This might include, but is not limited to:


  • A predetermined number of non-chargeable development days for clusters of schools or other providers who purchase. This might be used for a range of purposes including head teacher meetings, planning meetings, training, and whole school development. Actual activities are negotiable depending on the number of development days offered.
  •  Exclusive offers to participate in research projects which offer free (at point of delivery) EPSS time for discrete pieces of work, such as the person-centred review (PCR) pilot.
  •  Coming soon: Regular complimentary drop-in consultation service for staff and parents of those schools who purchase into EPSS.  The Service is currently looking at extending this service to include email and telephone support.

Chargeable in line with package purchased or ad hoc

We understand that different settings will need different services to meet the needs of the children and young people. As such all of our services are bespoke - so whether you are an early years provider, a school, college or employer, we will work with you to understand your needs and how we might be able to help. Here is an overview of the types of activities we might undertake:

  • Bespoke packages of support which may include case work (assessment/intervention), group and whole class work, whole setting development such as training, which might relate to issues arising from inspections, setting priorities, or the Equality Act 2010 for example 
  • PCRs facilitated by an EP 
  • Access to EPSS training such as the Wellbeing Toolkit 
  • Access to transitional and review input for schools, colleges and employers.

Do you have something in mind that is not listed?  Contact us to discuss your requirements.

EPSS works with children and young people using a graduated response which fits with the local authority's Local Offer and other early help agendas. This approach aims to provide early, preventative support which empowers children, young people and those who live and work with them to find sustainable solutions. Effective graduated responses and early help approaches promote equality of service and resource access within and between communities.

Graduated responses are not necessarily linear and are used with flexibility to meet presenting need at any given time. For example, it may be appropriate to move back and forth along the graduated response. Here is the EPSS team’s graduated response and the kind of activities you could expect from each:

  1. Awareness raising: this aims to provide opportunities for reflective practice and skill development. It may include training or drop-in services for school staff and parents.
  2. Systemic development: this aims to support whole schools, families and others to consider different ways of working, identify areas for development and areas of strength. It may include internal skills audits and observations of whole school practice, review of policies and planning meetings.
  3. Group consultation: this aims to draw out strengths amongst the group of people most relevant to the child or young person's life or the presenting situation (ie behaviour management). This might include whole school staff, parents, governors and other professionals. It may include solution circles or circle of adults for example.
  4. Distance individual consultation: this is most likely to relate to a specific child or young person. It could include contact with the team through telephone or email, for example, or a written response following in-setting consultation.
  5. In-school individual consultation: this will relate to case work and involve discussion of an individual child/young person and their presenting circumstances. The team will use a range of consultation approaches suitable to the situation. It may include discussion with class teacher or other relevant professional(s), parents/carers, or attendance at an annual review.
  6. General assessment: the term 'assessment' is broad and varied and may include a wide range of approaches. For example, it may utilise cognitive and attainment assessment, dynamic assessment, drawing, talking, observation, ongoing consultation, file reviews and many other forms of involvement. The purpose will be to gather information to formulate ideas about the underlying cause of the presenting problem and help the child/young person and adults move forward.
  7. Specialist assessment/intervention: this is an extension of point six, but includes more detailed investigation often using specialist assessment tools and interventions to support those working and living with the child or young person. This might include therapeutic input (eg CBT, systemic approaches, teaching assertiveness skills to vulnerable children, management of stress and anxiety); literacy intervention (eg assessment and identification of specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, including specialist teaching, interventions and strategies for support); assessment and intervention for language development, processing skills and emotional wellbeing amongst others.

Whether you work for an early years setting, school, college, training provider, or you are a parent or employer, a member of the EPSS team will be happy to talk to you about how they can support you or an individual child or young person.

All queries relating to traded work should be directed to Dr James Thatcher in the first instance (  Queries relating to core work should be directed to Mr. Steve Higgins (

If you have general queries you can contact the team via their website

Bunn, H. (2015). Research in Brief: Complex Medical Conditions – Issues for
Parents and what can be done in Practice? Debate, Edition 154, March 2015. British Psychological Society, Division of Educational and Child Psychology.
Hammond, N. (forthcoming). Social Theatre for Social Change: The
Relevance of Performance in Educational Psychology. In Billington, T., Goodley, D., Williams, T. (eds.). Critical Educational Psychology. London, UK: BPS Wiley/Blackwell.
Hammond, N. (2015). Forum Theatre for Children: Enhancing Social,
Emotional and Creative Development. London, UK:  Trentham Books / Institute of Education Press
Hammond, N. (2015a). Making a Drama out of Transition: Challenges and
Opportunities at Times of Change. Research Papers in Education.
Hammond, N. (2013). Introducing Forum Theatre to Elicit and Advocate
Children’s Views. Educational Psychology in Practice, 29, 1, 1 – 18.
Hammond, N. (2013a). Re-Thinking the use of the Arts in Applied Psychology.
Assessment and Development Matters, 5, 1.
Hammond, N. (2013b). Developing a Community Psychology Service in one
Local Community through a Practitioner-Researcher Pilot Study. Educational and Child Psychology, 30, 1, 50 – 60
Hampton, L., Roberts, W., Hammond, N., and Carvalho, A. (2010). Evaluating
the Impact of Rtime: An Intervention for Schools That Aims to Develop
Relationships, Raise Enjoyment and Reduce Bullying. Educational and Child Psychology, 27, 1, 35 – 51.
Hatfield, S. (2014). Safeguarding the Safeguarders: Supporting workers with
children who sexually abuse peers. Educational and Child Psychology, 31, 3, 33-41.
James, A. and Leyden, G. (2010). A Grounded Theory Study of ‘Circle of
Friends’ groups: The Power of the Set-up Meeting as a Tool for Opening the Social Field for Isolated Children in Schools. Educational and Child Psychology, 25, 1, 48-59.
Kimber, L. (2014). Research in Brief: Exploring Young People’s Experiences
of a Placement in Specialist Educational Provision for Behaviour, Emotional and Social Difficulties. Debate, Edition 153, December 2014. British Psychological Society, Division of Educational and Child Psychology.

Fields, K. (2009). Advocacy for Children with Learning Difficulties and Communication Support Needs – The use of peer advocates and the effects of the role of the advocate. DEdCPsy thesis, University of East London, UK.

Finger-Berry, B. (2015). Death of a School Friend – How Young People Cope and What Helps. EdD thesis, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK.

Hammond, N (2011). A Case Study on Implementing Forum Theatre: Eliciting views and explaining processes. DEdCPsy thesis, University of Sheffield, UK.

Kimber, L. (2014). Exploring Young People’s Experiences of a Placement in Specialist Educational Provision for Behaviour, Emotional and Social Difficulties. DEdCPsy thesis, University of East London, UK.

Thatcher, J. (2011). An Exploration of the Views and Experiences of Children with Specific Learning Difficulties/Dyslexia as Consumers of Special Educational Provision and of their Parents and Professionals.

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