What it’s like being an Educational Support Worker

Hello and WELCOME to PsychAssist. This week we have a guest article from Amber Hayday who is an Educational Support Worker, gives her insight into what it’s like having this role. Amber is an aspiring Educational Psychologist and her account and experience demonstrate a good way of gaining relevant experience to pursue this career path. This is why we wanted to publish this article to give you a blueprint of one way to become an Educational Psychologist.

Just Graduated? Check out: 6 Jobs for A Psychology Graduate straight out of university?

Thinking of becoming an Educational Psychologist? check out: To Be or Not to be…An Educational Psychologist

Don’t Know if Support Worker roles are for you? Check out: The Benefits Of Being A Support Worker

Missed the Last PsychAssist article? Check out: How PsychGrads Can Dominate 2019!

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Hi! I’m Amber and I graduated from my Psychology degree in July 2018! I have just finished my first term as an Educational Support Worker. In the future, I hope to secure my place on an educational psychology doctorate.


Like other final year students, I felt overwhelmed trying to find graduate employment. I started applying in April 2018, I had some interview but was unsuccessful.


In October, I decided to do some agency work as a teaching assistant in a special educational need school. After a month of agency work, I went for an interview at a local college and got a phone call saying I was successful at my interview and would start as an Educational Support Worker (ESW)!


On my first day, I remember feeling so anxious. This changed as soon as I met my new colleagues and the learners I would be supporting. Everyone was so welcoming!



“approaches I learnt at university have only touched the surface of what I see as an ESW”

    Amber Hayday (2019)


The course supports learners aged 16 to 24 who have special educational needs and/or disability. We support the learners in a range of topics such as personal safety, independent living and money skills. Although the course is not accredited and does not provide a qualification, it gives learners the confidence to enrol on accredited courses in the future.


Every day as an ESW is different. So far, I have found my role incredibly rewarding and at sometimes very challenging. I’ve realised that the theories and approaches I learnt at a university have only touched the surface of what I see as an ESW. I work with a vast and diverse set of learners from minor to complex needs. I have strengthened my psychology skills such as communication and teamwork, but developed new skills such as emotional resilience. I’ve had to cope quickly and proactively if learners have seizures or sensory overloads.


For me, I love learning new things – one reason I’ve chosen Educational Psychology as my specialism. I’m always researching new ways to support the learners I work with. This gives the learners personalised support and helps me develop my critical thinking skills. However, within the field of Educational Psychology, research for 16 to 25-year olds is sparse. Throughout my career, I would like to add to research literature surrounding supported college courses and develop an understanding of the outcomes these courses have.


Here are my top tips on how to survive your first graduate job:


Keep weekly reflections (I use Kolb or Gibbs cycle of reflection). This will help you develop as a practitioner and will be useful for future job/masters/ doctorate applications. 


Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Remember you are still learning too!


If you want to begin your career in the education sector, don’t discount doing agency work. I found it easier to write applications whilst I was in employment then talking about volunteer placements I had done during university.


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