Society

resolutions in the President’s column; Lifetime Achievement Awards; International Congress of Coaching Psychology; and more

President’s column
Gerry Mulhern
Contact Gerry Mulhern via the Society’s Leicester office,
or e-mail: [email protected]

May I take this opportunity to wish all Society members and staff a healthy, happy and productive 2011. With the annual festivities behind us, inevitably thoughts turn to pledges for the New Year. But when is a pledge not a pledge, especially a signed pledge? Given the proposed (as I write) rise in university tuition fees, perhaps the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills can tell us? Or, maybe the FIFA members who reneged on their pledge to vote for England’s outstanding 2018 World Cup bid could enlighten us? So, it would seem after all that democratic structures do not necessarily guarantee promised outcomes. Democracy, that is, without transparency.

There are lessons for any member organisation with a democratic mandate, and that includes the BPS. The Society is a member-focused organisation supported by democratic and bureaucratic structures. The key to good Society governance is transparency, including, where appropriate, clear declarations of interest by those holding office, whether at the head of the organisation, or serving on a Society committee, or in a member network.

Similarly, we must ensure that our bureaucracy can be justified. Too often, bureaucracy is there forthe benefit of bureaucrat, rather than for truly effective service delivery, and the Society has more than its fair share of bureaucratic structures. One of my New Year’s resolutions
is to ensure that the Society continues to modernise its governance, management and supporting bureaucracy.

Two undoubted highlights of the Society’s 2010 calendar occurred late in the year. I refer to our sell-out Psychology 4 Students lectures in Nottingham and London. Congratulations to the Standing Conference Committee and to Society conference staff for organising two such fantastic events. I cannot help but reflect on the good fortune of the 400 students who attended Nottingham Trent University’s splendid Newton Building, and of the 800 who converged on Kensington Town Hall, in avoiding the 2012 fees increase.

Of course, there will be a stampede for 2011 entry. All but the most financially well-off will forgo a highly beneficial gap year in order to qualify for lower tuition fees. Others will be reapplying after having failed to secure a place due to unprecedented competition last year. Still others will apply because of bleak employment prospects in the current downturn. So my commiserations to those charities and overseas organisations that rely on thousands of students opting to spend a gap year gaining life experiences through service to others.Many people are debt averse – indeed, in the past, such aversion was regarded as a virtue. Whether a vice or a virtue, debt aversion is psychologically deeply rooted, especially among the less well-off. For many young adults, the prospect of crushing debt may be much more salient than any perceived cost of not attending university. In fact, not very long ago, a former Secretary of State for Education, Estelle Morris, had to review student support because debt aversion among the less well-off was found to be preventing them from applying to university.

Understandably, many poorer students, as well as those from the squeezed middle, who do overcome their reluctance to take on significant debt, may wish to see their debts repaid sooner rather than later. Bad luck. One of the less well-publicised features of the new ‘fairer’ fees regime is a redemption penalty for paying off debt early, a penalty defended as common among ‘financial products’. So, students it seems will be signing up for a financial product, much as they would an endowment or life assurance policy. At least the rather blunt device will punish both higher and lower earning graduates, preventing the former from avoiding the higher tiers of interest. Fairness, it seems comes in many guises.

Undoubtedly, we live in straitened times, but our financial challenges must not be used as cover for political choices. I remain sceptical that government policy on tuition fees and student debt repayment will not prove regressive. So, my second New Year’s resolution is to implacably oppose these policies.

Oh yes, and my third New Year’s resolution is to seek to ensure that my successors will not have their President’s columns consigned to the obscure middle of our house magazine. If you agree, e-mail me. 

 

Lifetime achievements in practice

The Society’s Professional Practice Board has granted its Lifetime Achievement Award jointly to two highly-respected members of the Society – Professor John Hall and Professor Gerald Randell. The award recognises and celebrates unusually significant and sustained contributions in a career as a practitioner of applied psychology.
Professor Hall is an eminent clinical psychologist who has been at the forefront of delivery, training and establishment of the profession since his initial training in the early 1970s.

His career began at the time when organised services were virtually non-existent and many psychologists worked in isolation, conducting assessments rather than therapy and under the direction of psychiatrists. Hall worked at Warneford Hospital, Oxford, where he went on to become Head Psychologist, managing a large, dynamic and highly successful NHS Clinical Psychology Department and service. The well-regarded service attracted talented psychologists, all of whom were encouraged to develop innovative practice, and to offer teaching and supervision as well as clinical services.

Professor Hall played a significant role in the development and shaping of emergent psychological services and therapies in the UK. He  is also the co-author of a bestselling book with Sue Llewelyn, What Is Clinical Psychology? (OUP).

Professor John Marzillier summarised Professor Hall’s contributions: ‘He embodies the major virtues of modern-day clinical psychology, always a scientist but also fully aware of the practicalities and realities of clinical work. He has been an innovative researcher. His early work on token economies with Roger Black led the way in applying behavioural principles to help improve the lives of chronic psychiatric patients in psychiatric hospitals. He has continued the work with the seriously mentally ill, a group that he has always championed through out his career.’

John retired from his NHS post in 2002, but he continues to be active as a professional psychologist. He remains keenly interested in the NHS and mental health and has also just completed a MA in the History of Medicine. He was recently appointed as a Research Associate in the History of Medicine Group at Oxford Brookes University.

On winning the award Professor Hall told The Psychologist: ‘I felt moved, actually – it came out of the blue, as a complete surprise. It is of course a tremendous compliment.’ When asked for the highlight of his career, he added: ‘I have worked closely with clinical and academic colleagues from a number of disciplines, and have come to appreciate how good psychological practice involves active partnership with others – and how rewarding that can be when it goes right.’

The other winner of the Lifetime Achievement award is Emeritus Professor Gerald A. Randell, a retired academic whose outstanding contribution to the field of applied psychology was as a practitioner and consultant.

Professor Randell’s most distinguished practical contribution in the field of applied psychology is perhaps the development of effective staff appraisal. Pioneering ‘open’ appraisal and use of ‘micro-skills’, the process became known as the ‘Bradford Approach to Staff Development and Leadership’. While its conceptual home was the successful Human Resources Research Group at the University of Bradford Management Centre, the practical impact was with a wide range of commercial and public sector organisations both throughout the UK and abroad.

Nominating Randell, Professor Clive Fletcher commented: ‘Gerry has consulted extensively on selection, appraisal and leadership. His booklet on staff appraisal, published by (what was then) the Institute of Personnel Management had a considerable impact in the 1970s and early 1980s. Overall, Professor Randell has made a significant nicely balanced contribution over the span of his career. His greatest contribution, I think, is his tireless efforts to support the development of applied psychology through his work on committees and other bodies. In particular, he was significant figure on the executive committee of the International Association of Applied Psychology for 10 years.’

On receiving the award Professor Randell said: ‘I was bowled over when I heard of the award and thought “Why me?” I was most pleased to have just received the Division of Occupational Psychology award then to be told of the Professional Practice Award, open to the whole of applied psychology… I felt absolutely shattered, but at the same time immensely honoured.’
Debbie James


Have you seen the latest news?

Since July 2010 the front page of the Society website has featured a Latest News section that is updated with new stories several times a day. These stories cover the finding of psychology research from our own events and publications, and provide informed comment by psychologists on issues of topical interest.

Our news coverage is intended to appeal to a wide readership, as one reason for including it on the website is to boost our rankings with search engines such as Google. News stories are written for us by Adfero Newsreach, with the Society’s PR team finding psychologists who can give expert comment on each subject.

Recent stories published on our website have included a statement from the Society’s President, Dr Gerry Mulhern, on Kenneth Clarke’s proposed reforms of sentencing policy, items from our Research Digest and coverage of papers given at several Division conferences.

The annual conference of the Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology, for instance, led to stories on what makes a good coach and on the benefits of active video games. The Division of Clinical Psychology conference gave us stories on sexual health professionals’ reliance on rape myths and on self-management strategies for people recovering from psychosis.

We have also been able to cover major news stories as they develop over time. The ordeal of the Chilean miners, for instance, was the subject of a number of stories, with comment from Dr James Thompson, Marc Hekster and Jennifer Wild, looking first at how they would cope with being trapped and later at how they might react to their rescue.

The reaction to this new service has been positive, and many different psychologists have contributed quotations to our stories. We have also started to receive enquiries from organisations that have found a story through a search of the web and want to know more about the contribution that psychology can make in their field.

This is a developing service, so if you have a news story you think may be of interest to other members and the general public, please get in touch with the Society’s PR team ([email protected], 0116 252 9500). Stories that might not otherwise come to our attention, such as papers given at conferences overseas, will be particularly welcome.
Jonathan Calder, PR Team


CONSULTATIONS ON PUBLIC POLICY

Responses to five consultations were submitted by the Society during November. Selected points regarding each are provided below. Full details, including consultation papers and the complete responses, are available at: www.bps.org.uk/consult. The Society would like to thank all those involved.

Draft Early Years (0-6) Strategy (Department for Education, Northern Ireland [DENI])
This draft strategy defined a framework for the policy direction of DENI and set out key objectives and strategic actions. The Society identified a lack of commitment to 0- to 2-year-olds and suggested ways for targeting provision at this group. The focus on Sure Start was considered not to permit either universality or equity of provision.

Draft Acute Oncology Measures (Department of Health
) The Acute Oncology Measures will be added to the Manual for Cancer Services, which supports quality improvement in the commissioning and delivery of cancer services. The Society’s response identified needs for improved metrics and cross-referencing to published psychological support measures. Psychological issues were missing from the measures.

Institutional Review of Higher Education Institutions in England and Northern Ireland (Quality Assurance Agency
) A revised review process for institutional management of academic quality and standards was proposed for adoption from 2011/12. The Society welcomed this, particularly the steps taken to ensure flexibility, responsiveness to sector-wide concerns, and accessibility to a wide range of stakeholders. The response highlighted ways in which the findings of institutional review might more directly inform professional body accreditation activities.

Regulations Governing Fostering Services, Children’s Homes Providers and Adoption and Fostering Panels, and Statutory Guidance on Children’s Homes and Fostering (Department for Education) The revisions proposed here were aimed, in part, at reducing bureaucracy and bringing these documents in line with care regulations and guidance. The Society found insufficient attention to have been paid to mental/emotional health and to available resources. There was a lack of clarity regarding the relationship standards needed between adult caregivers and children.

Consultation on the Policy Framework: Teacher education in a climate of change – the way forward (DENI & Department forEmployment and Learning, Northern Ireland
) This consultation considered the social pressures faced by young people during their time at school and it looked at the challenges faced by teachers in dealing with pupils experiencing short- or long-term barriers to learning. The Society expressed concerns that an additional level of quality control may result in a system already subject to significant, external quality control. It was recommended that teacher education should be aimed at promoting personal development and encouraging a reflective and sustained approach to learning.

The preparation and submission of the Society’s responses to consultations on public policy is coordinated by the Policy Support Unit (PSU). All those holding at least graduate membership are eligible to contribute to responses, and all interest is warmly welcomed. Please contact the PSU for further information ([email protected]; 0116 252 9926/9577) or visit our website (address above).


International coaching conference

In the current climate of mass redundancies and public sector cuts, the nation’s psychological state is perhaps at its lowest ebb in decades. In a move to try to improve the nation’s well-being, the Society’s Special Group in Coaching Psychology was, as we went to press, about to open its 1st International Congress of Coaching Psychology, which the general public are also able to attend.

To be held at City University, London on 14–15 December 2010, the congress plans to bring together leading coaching psychologists from across the globe. Coaching psychologists, who have witnessed coaching and coaching psychology becoming more beneficial
in every aspect of people’s personal and professional lives, are set to present the findings of cutting-edge evidence-based research to the public arena intended ‘to benefit the health and well-being of nations worldwide’.

In a world where the expectation is to achieve more, faster than any other generation, the pressure of life in 2010 can have a negative impact. Paula Hall, a psychotherapist for Relate said: ‘We feel as though we are not making as much of our lives because we have more options. Psychologically, choice can be a burden.’

Master classes and workshops have been planned to offer the opportunity for experiential learning, and there should be plenty of chances for debate and discussion about the contribution that coaching psychology makes to individuals, groups, organisations and society.Director of Coaching Psychology Unit at City University in London and Co-Convener of the ICCP, Stephen Palmer, said of the event: ‘What makes this International Congress special is that it is the first time that the coaching psychology community has come together in major cities around the world, promising to put the coaching psychology profession firmly on the global map.’

Peter Zarris is National Convener of the Australian Psychological Society’s Special Group in Coaching Psychology and also Co-Convener of the ICCP. Peter said: ‘The development of coaching and coaching psychology as professions will no doubt move forward at a great pace, and the need to provide evidence based solutions, research, fundamental skills and professional requirements will be crucial.’

The 1st International Congress of Coaching Psychology is the first in a series of global congresses to be held in the UK, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, Scandinavia, Israel and Switzerland in partnership with each country’s coaching psychology body.

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