DfE seeks retired educational psychologists to support returning pupils

The government wants retired educational psychologists to return to work to help support children returning to school.

The Department for Education is inviting former educational psychologists who “may be interested in temporarily returning to the profession”, and those still practicing who have additional capacity for temporary support to express interest.

It follows warnings from psychologists that the lockdown exacerbated “feelings of entrapment, loneliness, hopelessness and anger” in pupils, and concerns that pupils who have been away from schools for the best part of six months will struggle to adjust to their return.

However the push for more support comes after a years-long decline in the number of educational psychologists working in schools.

Schools Week revealed in 2017 that the number of the professionals employed by local authorities dropped by 13 per cent between 2010 and 2015, and a government-commissioned report warned last year that more than 90 per cent of LA principal educational psychologists were experiencing more demand for their services than they were able to meet.

The DfE now wants to hear from educational psychologists who left the profession after 2017 or who are still registered but are unemployed or working part-time.

They will be set to work “providing temporary support for children and young people returning to educational settings in September 2020”, with the opportunity lasting “for up to 13 weeks”.

However, it looks like the government does not expect all of the additional psychologists to be in place this month. It has set a closing date for expressions of interests of November 30.

Those recruited will have their terms and conditions “agreed individually with the local authority with which they are placed”. It will also be up to LAs if they want to offer work beyond the initial 13 week period.

However, the DfE has not said how much the educational psychologists will be paid, nor whether it will provide additional funding to councils to pay for them.

The push for more educational psychologists to help school pupils follows recent warnings that the profession is struggling to keep up with demand.

MPs heard last year how educational psychologists were being forced to identify the special educational needs of pupils “in one visit” due to lack of funding, resulting in children being given the wrong diagnoses and schools having to pick up the pieces.

Dr Cath Lowther, educational psychologist, told the parliamentary education committee in January 2019 that a “drive for efficiency” by the government was resulting in her colleagues being told to identify pupils’ needs after seeing them just once, whereas some years ago they visited them “three of four times”.

The DfE announced last year that it would provide over £30 million in funding to train new educational psychologists, with over 600 due to receive grants and help with tuition costs.

The announcement came after a government-commissioned report, Research on the educational psychologist workforce, found that although there were “relatively attractive” jobs available for educational psychologists, there were “not enough qualified educational psychologists to fill them”.

Professionals interested in the scheme have been asked to contact the relevant local authority by email. A list of contact details is provided online.

The DfE announced in August that it would spend £8 million on a new training scheme to improve schools’ knowledge and understanding of mental health and wellbeing.