Updated: Nov 7, 2022
As part of our 10th Anniversary Series, our new feature - Coffee with... will see Dr David Lamb EP, director and co-founder, meet with the team throughout the school year to see what we're up to and share our passions and reflections.
First up - it seemed right that David met with fellow director and co-founder Dr Jonny Laber-Craig to talk about Jonny's passion for supervision.
David: Tell me a little bit about yourself…
Jonny: Hi, I’m Jonny and I have been an educational psychologist (EP) for 12 years. Before qualifying I was a trainee educational psychologist (TEP) at the University of Nottingham, and in fact I was in the very first cohort of the Doctorate course established back in 2006. I have worked in independent practice for 10 years and I am a qualified EMDR therapist and accredited supervisor with the British Psychological Society. When I started working as an EP most of my work involved covering patches of schools, but I am now spending more of my time supervising my Applied Psychologies’ (AP) colleagues who are at different stages of their career and supervising members of staff in educational settings.
[D] How would you explain what supervision is to those working in schools and educational settings?
[J] Supervision is a way of developing professionally and personally. It’s a time for people to bring items to talk and reflect about, and hopefully move forward with their thinking and understanding.
I draw upon the Proctor Model, which highlights three main purposes of supervision
Developmental/formative - which focuses on skills, knowledge, and confidence of the supervisee (the person being supervised);
Normative - which ensures that practice is being done safely and ethically;
Supportive/restorative - which provides emotional support, encouragement, and motivation.
By working closely with the supervisee, the supervisor will provide support for the appropriate purpose(s).
[D] When did you first become interested in supervision?
[J] When I was a trainee to be honest. At that time, I couldn’t believe how far down the line supervision was in terms of importance in educational psychology practice – it always seemed to be the part of our work which was either rearranged or cancelled first, and it appeared pretty non-existent in schools.
I have always been interested in comparing the amount of supervision provided within education to that in health and there is such a big discrepancy with much more supervision time given to medical doctors and other professionals working in healthcare. This doesn’t make sense to me as it is well documented how stressful working in education can be.
When we set up AP and started hiring staff, we wanted to do supervision properly and we have since taken our learning and practices into the schools and settings we work.
[D] How much supervision do you provide in your current role?
[J] I currently supervise different members of the team at AP including a Year 2 TEP who is studying at Nottingham University, a member of our Senior Leadership Team (SLT) and I also help to provide support to one of our Assistant EPs. In one of the schools I work, I also supervise another Assistant EP who is employed directly by that setting.
In my school-based work I supervise a range of educational professionals including Head Teachers and other members of SLT, class teachers, mentors, and teaching assistants. In recent years I have started to see more and more schools come on board with supervision and indeed last week a Head Teacher told me she wants to keep this element as an integral part of the EP support the school receives.
[D] In your experience, what would you say are some of the benefits for people who receive supervision from an educational psychologist?
[J] It enables reflection, not just the challenges but the good stuff too, which is important because we’re unlikely to reflect on this otherwise. I grew up on solution-focused practice where questions regularly encourage people to reflect on positives.
When people come to supervision, sometimes they don’t know what they want to talk about and then can’t believe 45 minutes later that they haven’t stopped talking! And that’s the beauty of supervision in that it provides a safe space for people to talk about things that they may not feel comfortable to do in other contexts.
With regards to EPs providing supervision, I would say we are trained and well-practised in listening, asking questions and helping people to solve their own problems and move forward. There are also similarities with consultation, and we’ve had thousands of those!
[D] What are some of the challenges associated with supervision?
[J] When working in schools it’s initially about getting people to realise that the time is valuable.
Also, if people are unfamiliar with the process, then sometimes they think that their competencies are being questioned. This is why it is really important to speak to commissioners about what supervision is and the potential benefits. Once people start having supervision it can sometimes be difficult to engage them in all aspects of the process notably following up on actions which have been agreed and planning for the next session. I always like those who I am supervising to send over an agenda in advance and this doesn’t always happen, I think in part because people sometimes view the supervision session as being the designated time. My EP colleagues know how much emphasis I put on the importance of preparation!
The expectations of supervision can also be challenging in that the supervisee can sometimes view you as being a foundation of knowledge, when in reality, supervision is more about having a discussion rooted in reflection.
[D] What are your hopes for supervision within education in the future?
[J] More of it! There is simply not enough and with teacher retention rates at an all-time low this may help prevent the slide. Ideally, I would like to see schools become self-sufficient with a member of staff within each school being responsible for supervision (I realise I may be doing myself out of a job though in saying that).
I would also like to bring into school more of the supervision practices and models we use at AP, including group supervision sessions for different teams and supportive peer observations, not just SLT observations which is often the case in schools. Ultimately all of this comes down to time and money but if we can get it right, the benefits on staff well-being, retention and skills will outweigh the costs attached.
[D] What advice do you have for people interested in learning more about receiving supervision?
[J] Contact us – a lot of our team can provide supervision, and many of the skills attached to supervision are part of the DNA of being an EP. I would certainly think about what you want to gain from supervision, and which of the three purposes I mentioned previously you feel you might need. A good supervisor will help you to establish this.
In the setting you work it may be worth raising supervision with members of your SLT - the good news is that many schools within trusts we work are already building in time for supervision. Then it’s about trying it out at first and seeing if it is something that works for you.
[D] And finally…
Give me three words that best describe what supervision means to you…
[J] Ha ha! We do this regularly at Applied Psychologies when we evaluate our work. On this occasion I’m going to share with you the three T’s which I share with my supervisees: Turn up on time; Try your best; and Tell the truth. If you adhere to these principles and you have a good supervisor, then the time will be fruitful for you.
For more information on supervision for your school or for independent EPs looking for a supervisor, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01482 643458.