Meet The EPIC Team

Dr Paula Hopkins

C.Psychol. – Senior Educational Psychologist

A Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society and a full member of the Division of Educational and Child Psychology. Paula is registered with the professional body HCPC, allowing her to practice as an applied psychologist. Paula has twenty years’ experience as an educational psychologist and has worked as a Senior Practitioner Educational Psychologist with Leicestershire County Council and as an EP with Gloucestershire County Council before establishing EPIC in 2015. Paula is the service lead and director of EPIC and has key interests in children’s mental health (particularly anxiety), attachment and relationships, working memory and social processing. Paula has published research articles on group work and nurturing classrooms and is hoping to publish future articles from her doctoral research into class teachers’ perceptions and approaches to children’s anxiety.

Dr Melanie Shirley

C.Psychol. – Educational Psychologist

Mel is a highly experienced Educational Psychologist. She has worked for twenty years with children and young people between the ages of 0-25 supporting a wide range of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. Working with local authorities as an Educational Psychologist and Specialist Senior; she has also worked at Loughborough University before joining EPIC on a permanent basis. Mel is committed to identifying solutions for individual needs; overcoming barriers and enabling achievement. She specialises in autism and sensory needs as well as having expertise in learning needs (dyslexia and general learning) and key interests in attachment and relationships and mental health.

Nicola Pereira

 Educational Psychologist

Nicola is an experienced Educational Psychologist from South Africa. She worked in a school context in South Africa as well as in private practice, with a focus on supporting young people between the ages of 12 and 25 years old. Nicola is committed to working with young people in diverse settings with the aim of providing connection and support to ensure a successful academic journey for individuals. Nicola is interested in developing relationships with all stakeholders to support young people in their academic and personal journeys. Life long learning is important to Nicola and she is always willing to gain new experiences. She is excited to be working in the United Kingdom with the EPIC team.

Sonné Visagie

Educational Psychologist

Sonné is an Educational Psychologist from South Africa. She worked within a school context as well as in private practice. Working with a wide age range of children and young people allowed Sonné to gain a deeper insight into development, nurturing and supporting practices that allows each individual to reach their potential. She is passionate about diversity, learning support, play therapy and animal assisted therapies. Sonné believes that learning should be continuous, and is always excited about gaining new skills.

Alison Orton


After graduating from Leicester University Alison embarked on a career within the financial services sector working for large corporate banks.  Her career has involved qualifying as a finance advisor and latterly developing training materials, delivering courses to all levels of employees, to supervision and undertaking audits.  After having a small career break to have her children Alison returned to work in a customer focused busy office environment dealing with clients and the public through all media channels.

Alison has always had an interest in child development and a desire to help them build confidence and be the best that they can be.  This interest was nurtured through her long-term involvement with the Guide Association as a group Leader and Camp Advisor. Alison also has experience working within the EYFS.

Dr Claire Page

C.Psychol. – Educational Psychologist

Claire is a chartered psychologist with the British Psychological Society. Claire has twenty years’ experience as an educational psychologist and worked as a Senior EP with Leicestershire County Council, specialising in supporting vulnerable children, before joining EPIC in June 2016. Claire has a particular interest in attachment theory, social, emotional and mental health and how psychological frameworks based in these areas can support children, young people and families who are struggling with difficult-to-manage behaviours and feelings. Claire is also Level 1 Theraplay trained and is involved with the training and support of ELSAs (Emotional Literacy Support Assistants). She is an experienced Solihull Approach trainer and has run Solihull groups for parents. 

Laura Basson

Assistant Psychologist

During Sixth Form Laura developed an interest in Educational Psychology due to her passion for working with children and love for Psychology. Laura graduated from Birmingham City University in 2021 with a First class honours degree in BSc Psychology. She then worked for two years as a Teaching assistant and Learning Mentor gaining experience in Education. Laura joined EPIC in 2023 as an Assistant Psychologist; she wishes to apply to the Educational Psychology Doctorate programme and pursue a career as an Educational Psychologist. Laura’s interests are Attachment, Adverse Childhood Experiences and Trauma.

Olivia De Gioia

Assistant Psychologist

Due to personal circumstances as well as developing a keen interest in psychology during A-Levels, Olivia pursued a Psychology degree at Loughborough University and graduated in 2022. She has spent three years working as a Learning Support Assistant at a specialist school for Autism and developed her ability to apply psychological theory in practice. Her fascination with the psychological theory behind child development grew so much so that she decided to undertake a MSc in Applied Child Psychology which she is currently studying for alongside working for EPIC as an Assistant Psychologist. Olivia is excited to gain valuable experience and expertise in this role which will aid her in pursuing a career as an Educational Psychologist. Her interests include Autism, trauma, anxiety and attachment. 

Basia Makarewicz

Volunteer Assistant Psychologist

From a young age, Basia has always had an interest in psychology and how the mind works. Studying psychology at A-Level was a natural choice which broadened her knowledge and passion for the subject. She then went on to study Psychology at De Montfort University and graduated in 2021. Her particular interests are focused on attachment, mental wellbeing and LGBTQ+ experiences, and is passionate about supporting young people in their development and wellbeing.

Mia Griffin

Psychological Services Assistant (University Placement)

After studying Psychology for two years for her A-Levels, Mia was excited to further her knowledge of psychology as an undergraduate student at Loughborough University. After learning about how we, as children, learn in one of Mia’s optional modules, she has developed an interest in how this can impact an individual’s thought process. Mia is excited to learn more about Educational Psychology and how it operates in a workplace environment. She feels that her role as a Psychology Service Assistant with EPIC will enable her to develop practical skills that can elevate both her current and future theoretical knowledge. Mia is passionate about children’s mental health and the ways in which it can be improved with professional help. Mia’s goal is to work towards becoming an Educational Psychologist and hopes to positively impact the child’s life, as well as the family and the school involved.  

Risha Haria

Psychological Services Assistant (University Placement)

Risha is currently an undergraduate student at Loughborough University, having completed two years of a BSc in Psychology. Alongside her academics, Risha has been volunteering for SHOUT, a text messaging support service, and is involved in a student-led initiative that promotes positive mental health and well-being among students at Loughborough University. After a volunteering experience spending time with girls rescued from abuse, child marriage and female genital mutilation, she cultivated an interest in developmental psychology and how certain experiences affect social and emotional development in children. Over the course of her placement year, Risha is keen to learn about the life-changing services provided by EPIC and acquire further practical experience to pursue a career in Educational Psychology.

Testimonials From Previous Assistants:

How To Join

Should you wish to be a part of our school led wellbeing partnership and join EPIC Psychology and Wellbeing from September 2023 we are currently accepting school requests*.

*All membership is subject to a completed partnership agreement being returned by all schools or partnerships. Fees are subject to review year on year.

Please contact for further details.