Educational psychologists stripped from schools

A decline in the number of educational psychologists working with schools has prompted calls for a shake-up of funding.

The number of educational psychologists employed by local authorities dropped 13 per cent over five years: from 1,990 in 2010 to 1,650 in 2015, according to new government figures.

The change has been linked to councils shedding services as budget pressures impact on local authority and school funding. Some local authorities no longer employ any educational psychologists.

Earlier this month, the prime minister announced a package of support for mental health services in schools, including training for teachers to recognise any issues.

Earlier this month, the prime minister announced a package of support for mental health services in schools

But the government’s own guidance states that teachers should not also work as counsellors, while a survey conducted by the Association of Educational Psychologists (AEP) has shown an increased demand for their services.

Ian Austin, the Labour MP for Dudley North and a member of the education committee, told Schools Week that educational psychologists did “crucial work and have a huge part to play in our education system”, but warned there were “simply not enough of them”.

“Some local authorities have had to cut back educational psychologist services funding so the debate about education funding – which is just happening, but overdue – must look at funding for local authority education services as well as budgets for schools.”

A recent survey by the AEP found that 94 per cent of all educational psychology services had reported an” increasing demand for their services”, and 68 per cent had vacancies. The AEP estimates 200 vacancies in England.

At the same time, the organisation reports the capacity of educational psychologists had been “significantly reduced and fragmented in recent years” as a result of cuts to local authority and school budgets.

Some local authorities no longer employed any educational psychologists so they and schools had to commission professionals’ time from arms’ length and private groups, the association said.

A “small number” of academies and trusts employed their own educational psychologists.

Kate Fallon, the AEP’s general secretary, said: “Educational psychologists play a critical role in our education system, making a difference and improving children’s lives across the country.

“But it is clear that there are just not enough of them being trained, recruited and retained to meet the demand.”

Access to counsellors in schools are also coming under pressure, with Liam Collins, headteacher at Uplands community college in East Sussex, telling a parliamentary inquiry this week that his school had started means-testing sessions, meaning parents deemed able must pay.

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