Educational Psychology Service (EPS)

1. EPS

Educational Psychologists (EPs) undertake a range of work aimed at promoting inclusion, psychological well-being and raising standards for children and young people aged 0 to 19 years, across the full range of abilities. The Buckinghamshire County Council Educational Psychology Service (EPS) includes qualified EPs registered with the Health and Care Professions Council, trainee EPs on supervised placements, graduate Psychology Assistants and a management and leadership team.

We offer a consultation service to Buckinghamshire Maintained schools, academies and specialist settings, for example, where learning and/or development is giving significant cause for concern despite early intervention. Parental consent is essential for our involvement. Agreement for involvement with children and young people is based on EPs’ professional judgment and consideration of agreed thresholds. Priorities are related to Buckinghamshire's Children and Young People’s Plan and Children’s Service Portfolio Plan objectives and targets.

Usually, all maintained schools, academies and specialist provision in Buckinghamshire have a named linked Educational Psychologist, who under take high priority, core and statutory work, at no charge to the school. Due to low staff numbers the Service is unable, at present, to provide Link EP support directly to education settings.  It is hoped that Link EP support to settings can be provided in the near future. We will continue to respond immediately to requests for support following critical incidents affecting children or schools.

We have a statutory role in relation to SEND. We provide professional advice to the local authority under the Children and Families Act 2014 in relation to assessment of SEN, Annual Reviews and Tribunal appeals and contribute to decision-making panels. We also take the role of SEN Expert in Independent Review Panels for excluded pupils. We contribute to and advise the authority about research and evidence-based interventions and strategies.

2. Holding Hands parenting programme

Holding Hands is a parenting programme in Buckinghamshire. It was set up to help children develop and manage their feelings in a more effective way. The programme is for parents and carers with children between 2 and 5 years of age; who want support coping with their child’s challenging behaviour. The programme is managed by the Educational Psychology Service. This is in partnership with Buckinghamshire Children's Centres.

Holding Hands helps children develop positive behaviours and relationships through supported play experiences. It also helps to build parent/carer confidence in managing their child’s behaviour. It is only available for families who live within Buckinghamshire and are not accessing other home visiting services.

The primary concern for the child should be behaviour, not speech and language, medical or complex learning needs. If the child has additional needs other than behaviour then a request for another service may be more appropriate.



The Holding Hands programme was developed as part of the doctoral research of Dr Shami Rait, Senior Educational Psychologist, Buckinghamshire County Council.

In Dr Rait’s research it explains that Kaminiski et al. (2008) examined a range of parenting programmes for young children with behaviour difficulties. The research found that superior outcomes were achieved where parents were:

  • encouraged to develop positive interactions with their child
  • engaged in activities aimed to increase positive attention for appropriate behaviour, such as using praise
  • limiting their level of negative communication, such as harsh verbal or physical discipline
    able to practice new skills during sessions, as might be modelled by a facilitator


What is the programme?

The Holding Hands Programme was developed to include as many aspects of what is known to work in delivering parenting programmes (Kaminiski et al., 2008; Moran, Ghate, & van der Merwe, 2004).

It uses a design framework that is easy to remember. This is especially helpful during those times when behaviour can seem unmanageable. This framework is referred to as ‘flip’. That is, flipping ineffective behaviour to effective behaviour by:

  • Following the child’s lead (for example, helps to show interest in the child’s choice of activity).
  • Labelling praise and using positive descriptive language (raises the child’s self-confidence).
  • Ignoring ineffective behaviours (helps to reduce this unwanted behaviour).
  • Providing limits and boundaries (helps the child to feel safe and secure).
    The programme is delivered via the Educational Psychology Service. This is in partnership with Children's Centres, and consists of the following areas.

Introductory Workshop

This is a 2 and a half hour workshop for parents/carers at their local Children’s Centre. Here you can meet with, an Educational Psychologist (EP), Family Support Worker (FSW), and other parents/carers.

You can discuss concerns and try new ways of managing challenging behaviour. After attending the workshop you will be able to go onto the:

  • Universal programme
  • Group programme
  • Individual sessions.

This will be dependent on availability and appropriateness.

Universal programme (Pilot)

A member of the Holding Hands team contacts the parent/carer at home for a half hour chat. This will be continued for three further weeks, and arranged at a suitable time for you. This provides parents/carers with the opportunity to discuss any issues relating to their child’s play and behaviour. They can discuss the strategies they are using, what’s working well and what may not be working so well.

Group programme

Parents/carers meet at their local Children’s Centre for 1 and a half hours per week over a 4-6 week period. This provides an opportunity to discuss issues relating to your child's behaviour with the Holding Hands staff. The sessions are usually run by an EP and two FSWs.

You will also get to share ideas and views with other parents, whilst the children meet with others of their own age.

During a group based discussion, parents will have the opportunity to discuss the FLIP messages and consider the relevance to their own concerns. Each session will have a starter activity e.g. a story, followed by play activities based on most children's interests, e.g. music or food play, and a closing activity. Parents/carers have the chance to try out simple activities in the Centre and follow-up activities at home.

Individual Programme

The FSW from your local Children's Centre will deliver the programme in your home for approximately one hour a week for six weeks. They will bring fun activities and toys. The play sessions will help your child develop social skills which include sharing, waiting and taking turns.

Parents/carers will have opportunities to discuss any issues relating to their child's play and behaviour. At the introductory session you can help us to get the best out of the programme by telling us about your hopes and concerns.


Parent Quotes

"… X was lucky enough to get the support from the Holding Hands Project back in 2009.

Not only did he benefit hugely from the play and interaction that X and X were able to offer him, but we as a family gained hugely from having their support.

Their care and advice couldn't have been more timely. X was 4 years old and we were trying to come to terms with his diagnosis and what this meant to both him and us as a family. I couldn't have asked for two nicer people to help us through what was a very emotional time for us all.

After every session he was proud of what they had achieved together and this built up his confidence which at the time was very low.

Thank you Holding Hands …" Parent

"I just wanted to thank you very much for the fantastic holding hands course held at the Children's Centre over the past 6 weeks. I found the course very helpful, the course led by X and supported by X and X was extremely professional, friendly and informative.

I have found the course a real lifeline as I was struggling with my sons challenging behaviour. It has made me re-assess the way I interact with him using more praise and giving me more confidence with providing boundaries. I strongly hope that this valuable course can be offered to other parents.

I really cannot praise the course enough and thank everyone involved in it being held." Parent

"We are a lot closer, that is the best part and it just took my interactive work and playing together one on one." Parent

"I was able to see ways of playing with X which meant she could lead the play." Parent


Contact details

Please send referrals to our new address in Amersham:

Holding Hands
Educational Psychology Service
Amersham Area Office
King George V House
King George V Road

Tel: 01494 732187
Email: eps@buckscc.gov.uk

Or discuss Holding Hands at your local Children's Centre.

3. Mental health in schools

Buckinghamshire Child and Adolescent Mental Health (Bucks CAMHS)

Bucks CAMHS is part of Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust and provides mental health services for children and young people aged 0 - 18 years. They work with children and young people with emotional and mental health needs where appropriate first line interventions have been put in place and have not had a successful impact or where there is not the relevant expertise or skills to pick this up by those services who currently know the child.

Further information, including contact details, about Bucks CAMHS can be found on their web site.

4. Nurture groups

The National Nurture Group Network states that “being able to build trusting relationships with reliable and consistent adults and with their peer group establishes a foundation for healthy emotional development, enhancing children’s self-confidence and their ability to take responsibility for their own behaviour which increases chances of educational success.”

Buckinghamshire Educational Psychology Service have been running and supporting nurture groups in primary schools since April 2007. We promote short term interventions of a minimum of two sessions, with a session either being a morning or afternoon. The children remain members of the mainstream class and spend between 2 to 4 terms in the group setting before returning full time to the mainstream class. For some children further assessment may indicate a need for more long-term or alternative support and this would be explored.

We currently work directly with 43 primary schools and 9 secondary schools. Every school running a nurture group will have support from their programme EP with more specialist support available if required. There is an established local nurture network, chaired by the programme EP who promotes and shares best practice and provides continuing professional development opportunities for the Nurture Group practitioners. We retain our links with the National Nurture Group Network and provide on-going news and developments at these sessions.

In Buckinghamshire we follow the six principles of Nurture Groups.  They are:

  1. The pupil’s learning is understood and responded to developmentally.
  2. Nurture room offers a safe and predictable environment where adults are reliable and set firm boundaries.
  3. Students are valued and responded to as individuals to support their self-esteem.
  4. Language is a vital means of communication.
  5. All behaviour is communication.
  6. Transitions are important.

We believe that Nurture Groups provide:

  • Positive adult role models
  • Clear boundaries
  • Structures, predictable environment – feeling of control
  • Structured opportunities to participate in social interactions
  • Opportunities to participate in well-differentiated curricular activities with adults support – experience success
  • Feel valued and respected
  • Feeling of belonging to the school

 The role of the programme team

  • Supporting Nurture programme EPs in nurture work in school.
  • Developing and delivering the training programme for school staff.
  • Coordinating and delivering termly network meetings for school staff.
  • Developing guidelines and materials for website and dissemination.
  • Evaluating and reporting back the effectiveness of the Nurture Groups.

The role of the nurture programme EP

  • Support schools with the selection of children.
  • Regular group supervision for Nurture Group practitioners, including how schools are monitoring the progress of children, systemic issues, delivering the principles etc.
  • Supporting schools with their annual MOT.
  • Support schools with the collection of evaluation data.
  • Can provide link to the programme team.

Nurture network days

We offer termly nurture network days for schools and their nurture practitioners who are already part of the Nurture Group programme. Our nurture network days have separate sessions geared towards Primary and Secondary practitioners with opportunities for formal and informal networking and training input. The 2017/18 nurture network days are:

  • Tuesday 31 October 2017
  • Wednesday 7 March 2018
  • Thursday 14 June 2018

All at Green Park Conference Centre, Stablebridge Road, Aston Clinton from 9.15am to 3pm.

Primary Nurture Group training

Primary Schools who have signed up to the Nurture Group program are invited to attend one of the next Nurture Group training programmes. Please note that places are limited, so we do advise booking early. This training is for:

  • New Nurture Groups, which have priority and should send two members of staff to train as Nurture Group practitioners and the senior management member of staff designated with overall responsibility for nurture in the school
  • New Nurture Group practitioners in established Nurture Groups
  • Current Nurture Group practitioners in established Nurture Groups, who wish to refresh and also add the benefit of their experience and skills.

For further information regarding training please contact Educational Psychology Assistants on 01494 732187, or email nurturegroup@buckscc.gov.uk

Secondary Nurture Group training

Secondary schools are welcome to apply for Nurture Group training and support.

For further information regarding training please contact Educational Psychology Assistants on 01494 732187 or email nurturegroup@buckscc.gov.uk

Nurturing schools

Support is available for schools to use a whole school nurturing approach, for more information please email nurturegroup@buckscc.gov.uk.  

Additionally, Buckinghamshire EPS is one of only two centres in the UK which the Nurture Group Network have selected as a partner for the pilot of a national Nurturing Schools programme and launch of The Nurturing School Quality Mark Award (NSMQA). This is an exciting new collaboration with the Nurture Group Network which is providing the opportunity for a limited number of Buckinghamshire schools to access training and support to work towards the Nurturing School Quality Mark Award (NSQMA). Applications for this have now closed.

Resources available for schools to borrow

The Bucks Nurture Group Team has a stock of resources to loan to schools. Nurture Schools can borrow items on a half-termly basis for use in their own Nurture Group sessions free of charge. All we require is a contact name, mobile phone number and for the items to be delivered by hand, as mutually convenient. Please see the catalogue below for all the items available for loan. If you are interested in borrowing any of the items, please contact us.

Nurture Resource Catalogue

Evaluation tools

Below is a list of all the documents you will need for screening & selecting children for a Nurture Group and for evaluation. These are given to schools as part of their nurture training. If you would like copies of any of the following please contact us.

Primary schools

 Secondary schools

The results from all schools are collated on an annual basis so that the EPS can monitor the effectiveness of Nurture Groups. Please see the attached Evaluation Reports.

The concept of Nurture Groups began in Hackney in 1970, providing a secure predictable environment with carefully structured routines for small groups of children. These children are likely to have difficulty accessing learning in their mainstream class and could benefit from a more individualised approach. A nurture group provides a balance of opportunities for meaningful group interaction and the development of trust and appropriate social skills. It has an emphasis on the social, emotional aspects of learning (SEAL) and is clearly linked to the National Curriculum at the appropriate developmental age of the child.

Applications for nurture group training and support

We are now entering our ninth year of delivery and currently have 43 primary schools and 9 secondary schools running nurture groups in the county. In addition, some schools have been supported through ‘whole school’ nurture training, a number of whom are also completing the Nurturing Schools Quality Mark Award, some schools have received nurture support for individual children where a nurture group was not possible and recently, a number of early years practitioners have taken part in training to develop their practice by using nurturing principles in a whole setting approach.

Nurture Groups provide a secure predictable environment with carefully structured routines for small groups of children or young people who present with or who are at risk of developing social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. These children or young people are likely to have difficulty accessing learning in their mainstream class and may have missed early learning opportunities in their younger years for a number of reasons. These children and young people may benefit from a more individualised approach in order to help them to develop more positive relationships in school, to be better able to regulate their own behaviour and emotions and to participate in the curriculum. Nurture groups have an emphasis on social and emotional aspects of learning but, particularly in primary schools, activities should also be clearly linked to the National Curriculum, delivered at the appropriate developmental level for the child. Research has shown that nurture groups work best where there is a whole school approach and where all staff are involved in supporting the work of the nurture group.

The Educational Psychology Service Nurture Team supports schools in the set up and delivery of a part-time Nurture Group through providing a two day initial training for nurture practitioners and senior managers responsible for nurture in the school as well as through a whole school twilight training session. Ongoing support is offered through termly network/training days which are provided at no charge for Buckinghamshire nurture group practitioners and supporting staff; a yearly opportunity to review and develop practice is also offered to nurture group practitioners, using a self-evaluation framework.  We aim to work flexibly to support schools in developing their nurture practice whilst following best practice guidance and support the evaluation of nurture group interventions across the county.

In order to be invited to take part in the initial training sessions, schools should be able to demonstrate a commitment to establishing a nurture group in their school. 


Emotional Literacy Support Assistant (ELSA) training – spring term 2019

Buckinghamshire Educational Psychology Service have been supporting local schools to deliver nurture groups since 2007. The ELSA project will help schools who want to deliver social and emotional interventions in school but who do not have space for a nurture group or who have some children/young people who might benefit from an individual or short-term group programme instead.

Emotional Literacy Support Assistants (ELSAs) are members of school staff who receive training and support from educational psychologists to enable them to plan and deliver individual and small group support programmes in schools.

ELSAs help children and young people to recognise, understand and manage emotions to increase their success and participation in schools.


For further information please contact us by email: nurturegroup@buckscc.gov.uk

5. Useful links

Professional Bodies

Advice for parents (this list is not exhaustive)

  • Advisory Centre for Education  - The Advisory Centre for Education (ACE) is a national charity that provides advice and information to parents and carers on a wide range of school based issues including exclusion, admissions, special education needs, bullying and attendance.
  • Bereavement  http://www.childbereavement.org.uk/ http://www.winstonswish.org.uk/
  • Contact a Family  - UK-wide charity providing advice, information and support to the parents of all disabled children.
  • British Dyslexia Association - UK national organization, offering a wide range of information for parents, dyslexic adults and teachers,
  • Council  for Disabled Children
    The Council for Disabled Children (CDC) is the umbrella body for the disabled children's sector in England, with links to other UK nations. CDC is working with the Government on the reforms to children and young people  with SEND proposed in the Children and Families Bill
    Local Offer (Buckinghamshire)
  • The ‘Local Offer’ is part of the Special Educational Needs and Disability reforms proposed within the Children and Families Bill.  
  • Downs Syndrome Association - providing advice, information and support  to parents and professionals for children and young people with Down Syndrome
  • Family Information Service  Information to help families in Buckinghamshire 
  • Early Support ensures that service delivery is child, young person and family centred. It focuses on enabling services and practitioners to work in partnership. 
  • I-Can - The charity that supports children with speech, language and communication difficulties.
  • Mencap - The charity that supports people with learning disability.
  • National Autistic Society - The leading UK charity for people with autism (including Asperger syndrome) and their families.
  • National Children's Bureau: Home | UK children's charity  NCB is the leading national children's charity which supports children, young people and families and those who work with them.
  • RNIB - Charity supporting blind and partially sighted .
  • Action on Hearing Loss - Charity supporting deaf and hearing impaired.
  • Scope - Scope is a UK disability charity that supports disabled people and their families in England and Wales.

Advice for Children and Young People

  • Childline - Free advice for any problem children and young people have with bullying, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, domestic violence, self harm, sex and pregnancy.
  • Kidscape  - Committed to keeping children safe from abuse. Kidscape is the first charity in the UK established specifically to prevent bullying and child sexual abuse.

Advice for teachers, schools and settings

  • http://www.education.gov.uk/lamb/   Advanced e-training materials for teachers for autism, dyslexia, language and communication, emotional and social difficulties, moderate learning difficulties.
  • Inclusion Press  - Inclusion Press creates person centred resource materials for training events, public schools, high schools, community colleges, universities, human service agencies, health organizations, government agencies, families, First Nations organizations - nationally and internationally.
  • The Communication Trust is a coalition of almost 50 not-for-profit organisations. Working together we support everyone who works with children and young people in England to support their speech, language and communication.

  • The Dyslexia-SpLD-Trust, or the Trust, is a collaboration of voluntary and community organisations with funding from the Department for Education to provide reliable information to parents, teachers, schools and the wider sector. It acts as the important communication channel between government, leading dyslexia organisations, parents, schools, colleges, teachers and the sector.

Government departments

  • Department for Education - The purpose of the Department for Children, Schools and Families is to make this the best place in the world for children and young people to grow up.
  • Department of Health  - Providing health and social care policy, guidance and publications for NHS and social care professionals.

Safeguarding (including anti-bullying)

  • Anti Bullying Alliance  - The Alliance brings together over 50 organisations into one network with the aim of reducing bullying and creating safer environments in which children and young people can live, grow, play and learn.
  • Anti Bullying Network  - Following objectives: to support anti-bullying work in schools; to operate a website providing information about bullying; to research / develop effective strategies to address the verbal, psychological and physical harassment and violence called bullying; to promote research into bullying and support work seeking to reduce bullying; and to operate an anti-bullying service which will include the provision of training, publications and consultancy services.
  • BullyingUK  - Help and advice for victims of bullying their parents and school.
  • Childline - Free advice for any problem children and young people have with bullying, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, domestic violence, self harm, sex and pregnancy.
  • Kidscape  - Committed to keeping children safe from abuse. Kidscape is the first charity in the UK established specifically to prevent bullying and child sexual abuse.
  • Buckinghamshire Safeguarding Children Board 
  • NSPCC  - National Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

6. Resources

Educational psychology service information leaflets

ADHD - Information for School Staff and Parents (PDF)

Part 3: Advice for Family and Carers / Glossary of Terms (PDF)

Part 4: Strategies for Teachers in Schools (Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1) (PDF)

Part 5: Strategies for Teachers in Schools (Key Stage 2) (PDF)

Part 6: Strategies for Teachers in Schools (Key Stage 3/Key Stage 4) (PDF)

Critical incidents

Support for schools following a critical incident (PDF)

Helping children cope when someone has died (PDF)

General information

Expert witness leaflet (PDF)

Home Groups (PDF)

What is an Educational Psychologist? Pupil Information leaflet, Foundation and KS1 (PDF)

What is an Educational Psychologist? Pupil Information leaflet, KS1 and KS2 (PDF)

What is an Educational Psychologist? Pupil Information leaflet, KS3 and KS4 (PDF)

Working with Parents: Guidance for schools (PDF)

Mental health and well-being

What is a disorder?

Bereavement and loss

What is an eating disorder?

What is anxiety?

What is depression?

Leaflet on Nurture Groups in Primary Schools

Leaflet on Nurture Groups in Secondary Schools

SEN information

What is Developmental Co-ordination Disorder? (PDF)

Social Stories (PDF)

Research papers

The effects of bereavement and loss on pupils with severe learning difficulties - by Julia Crane (PDF)