Behind the Scenes: Principal Educational Psychologist Shares His Wisdom

1-2 minutes

In this blog, you will learn:

  • About the long and successful career of a Principal Educational Psychologist.
  • How educational psychology can benefit all children and young people especially those with SEND.
  • Where the latest Educational Psychologists jobs are and how to apply for them. 

Want to know how Educational Psychologists make an impact on children and young people with Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND)? Principal Educational Psychologist Alun Flynn has worked in the industry for over 30 years, and his knowledge and expertise is invaluable to those considering a career in educational psychology. 

Alun has a long term interest in how psychology can benefit children and has seen and facilitated great change in the educational psychology sector. In his career, Alun has facilitated the introduction of an innovative and sustained problem solving model with schools in Wales.

Alun is the Chair of the National Association of Principal Educational Psychologists in Cymru, has worked as part of an assessment team for autism and champions resources for neurodiversity, mental health and learning support.

Before he retires, this Principal Educational Psychologist wanted to share his experience and wisdom with those considering a career in educational psychology. 

Can you tell us about your career journey as a Principal Educational Psychologist?

I am about to retire from my very satisfying role in a Welsh local authority as a Principal Educational Psychologist. I was first appointed about 27 years ago, and early in my Principal Educational Psychologist career I completed my Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Doctorate in Educational Psychology at the University of East London.

Previously, I had worked as a Specialist Senior (Early years) and as an Area Educational Psychologist. I came into educational psychology work at a time when it was required to have taught for at least 2 years.

After gaining a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) in Cambridge I worked in a special education school for 3 years and was fortunate enough to receive secondment from the local authority to complete my Masters in educational psychology at University College London.

What does the role of a Principal Educational Psychologist consist of?

I continue with a significant amount of case work, which is probably unusual but necessary in a small educational psychology service. I have tried to work collaboratively with the Area Educational Psychologists (main grade Educational Psychologists in my team) to provide a consistent quality service delivery around consultation, assessment, training and research.

I do have a management responsibility which requires me to ensure we all comply with county council policy and procedures. I think kindness, compassion and curiosity are required as an Educational Psychologist, and this remains at the core of my work.

How do you collaborate with other professionals, such as Teachers and parents to support the holistic needs of children and young people with SEND?

Relationships are very important – with schools, parents, and colleagues across other agencies. I always try to be polite and listen well. I advocate for the role of psychology in supporting and providing the best outcomes for all children, especially those most vulnerable.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

There have been various challenges – especially early in my career to have a confident grasp of applied Educational Psychologists across all age groups from 0-19 years old. Ongoing Continuing Professional Development (CPD) has been essential to stay informed about best practice.

We work within the statutory requirements for a local authority so this might involve work in Additional Learning Needs (SEND is referred to as Additional Learning Needs or AL in Wales) tribunals. These are interesting but can also be challenging.

How do you deal with stress or the pressures of your job?

Report writing is an essential requirement of the job and I really enjoy writing to destress. Early in my career my saviour was the dictaphone due to the volume of work. I now write reports as positively and concisely as possible. The local authority has a digital platform for uploading and sharing reports.

We also have a team approach to training and allocating time to all aspects of the job – otherwise you lose your weekends!

What do you feel can be done to support pupils with SEND/ALN in the classroom?

I believe major systemic change in education is probably required and more support services for all aspects of ALN. Additional Learning Needs (SEND) support is expensive, and the need for this has consistently been under-estimated. 

I think much better training for all Teachers is required, ensuring their Senior Management Team supports them well due to the apparent increase in the numbers of children with more complex needs.

How do you believe the role of an Educational Psychologist has evolved over the years, and what do you see as its future direction?

There is a change to the training for Educational Psychologists from the requirement to teach plus gain a Master’s qualification, then to the Doctorate. Educational Psychologists also have a very good grounding now in Research Methodology. Education was devolved to Wales and the split with practice in England has become more apparent.

There are many more Educational Psychologists who are now working privately and working in areas outside their traditional role within education e.g.Youth Justice. I think there needs to be greater emphasis on equity, diversity, inclusion and neurodiversity, as well as strengths-focussed work. In the future the overlap with Clinical Psychology should be also improved.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of being a Principal Educational Psychologist?

I have been able to influence change at both individual, school and local authority level and I have really enjoyed the Emotional Literacy Support Assistant (ELSA) and Meditating Learning Support Assistant (MeLSA) training and supervision programmes.

What advice would you give to someone considering a career as a Principal Educational Psychologist?

Remain a Psychologist! Psychology is now a very popular degree and an interesting and caring profession. It is reasonably well paid once you qualify. 

Educational Psychologist jobs

If you’re searching for your next Educational Psychologist job, why not take a look at the latest vacancies, or simply upload your CV to be notified when a relevant position becomes available.

Considering a career in educational psychology? Learn the ropes in an interview with a trainee educational psychologist and discover many paths to becoming an Educational Psychologist like the training offered by the EPFT scheme.

Struggling to recruit Educational Psychologists?

As specialist local authority SEND recruiters, we support local authorities nationwide with their temporary, interim and permanent staffing needs. 

If you’re struggling to recruit, we have exclusive access to some of the most experienced interim Educational Psychologists in the UK.

Simply contact Natalie Boaler on 01772 954200 to discover how we can help.

Share your experience

Every individual brings a unique set of experiences, thoughts, and insights to the table. We believe in giving a voice to a community of professionals to inspire positive change and champion reform in the healthcare sector.  

If you work in the healthcare sector and would like to share your own personal and professional experiences, we’d love to hear from you. Perhaps you have a different perspective, could offer a fresh angle, or want to challenge assumptions. 

Simply reach out to our Head of Content, Nicole Sherwood, to discuss a collaboration which makes your voice count. 

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