Students Staff

24 July 2008

Unique course for local people working with children

Sue Kegerreis

A course offered by the University of Essex, which is unique to the east of England, is helping teaching and care professionals better equip themselves for working with troubled children and adolescents.

The foundation degree in Therapeutic Communication and Therapeutic Organisations, which is especially suitable, but not exclusively for those with or without a first degree, is thought to be the first of its kind in the country. It has been launched specifically to fill a regional skills gap and meet the needs of local employers.

The first cohort of students to enrol on the two-year course will shortly be completing their first year and the University’s Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies is currently recruiting applicants for the upcoming academic year starting this October.

The degree is aimed at people already working with children, either in special or mainstream schools, care homes or the social services. The innovative degree, which offers the option of a third year leading to a BA degree, enables students to gain insight into the emotional issues underpinning children’s difficulties and give them a deeper understanding of their behaviour.

Sue Kegerreis, Programme Leader, explained: ‘This foundation degree offers something unique. As a psychodynamic course it offers a creative and supportive approach which equips staff with what they need to manage their demanding roles with difficult children. It provides those with experience but maybe few formal qualifications the opportunity to enter higher education and further their skills.’

‘There are countless agencies whose brief includes helping troubled and damaged children and adolescents and while their workers are dedicated and hardworking they often have little or no training in understanding the emotional roots of the childrens’ problems. These workers are under continuous and enormous pressure. They are operating at the very sharp end of families’ and society’s problems and this can give rise to great anxiety which in turn can have damaging effects on both the individual worker and the children.'

‘This foundation degree gives workers a thorough grounding in psychodynamic theory and practice. It will help them understand what a child’s behaviour is communicating. They will gain insight into both the children’s communications and the feelings aroused in the people around the child. This will help them work out what is going on at a deeper level so as to intervene more effectively. It also gives them an insight into how groups and institutions work which helps them remain creatively in touch with both their colleagues and with those they aim to help.

Suzy Watts, Head of Learning Support Assistant at Coppins Green Primary School, is a current student on the course at the Colchester Campus. Suzy, who works with the Pupil Support Team offering pastoral support to the children, said: ‘This course has given me a better understanding of myself which in turn is giving me a better grasp of how other people relate to each other. This has helped enormously at work both with the children and with work colleagues. Being able to understand that every person is different and has their own perceptions and ideas borne out of their own life experiences has been invaluable. The long term benefits are that I can now see a different career path, this course has certainly opened up different avenues for me.’

Local employer Chris Tanner is Director of Education at the Ryes School in Hadleigh, Suffolk, a special school for young people with emotional and behavioural problems. He said: ‘This course has been unique and fantastic. What is special about it is that the School has been able to work with the University to develop a course specifically designed to meet the complex needs of our staff. There is an often difficult emotional dynamic that exists between our staff and the children. This course is invaluable in turning that into a creative dynamic and thus helping our staff work more effectively.’

For further information about the course, and details about how to apply, contact the Student Administrator in the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies, telephone: 01206 874554 or e-mail:




For further information please contact the University of Essex communications office on 01206 873529 or e-mail

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