Educational psychologists will be balloted for strike action amid a continued dispute with the Local Government Association (LGA) over pay.
The Association of Educational Psychologists (AEP), which has 3,600 members across the UK, said the current 3 per cent pay increase offer represented a real-terms pay cut at a time when inflation is at 8.7 per cent.
The AEP, alongside the National Education Union and Prospect, had asked the LGA for a rise of 9 per cent on all pay points.
The move to formally ballot members follows an indicative ballot in which 80 per cent of participating members voted yes.
“With a combination of pay freezes and below inflation increases from 2010 onwards, the real value of educational psychologists’ pay has been cut significantly,” said AEP general secretary Cath Lowther.
“Poor pay and conditions have resulted in an unprecedented recruitment and retention crisis, as workloads spiral and our wellbeing and the quality of services suffers.
“Local authority educational psychology services are at the brink and we urge members to vote yes for fair pay and to protect services.”
Numbers fall as SEND demand rises
Government workforce figures suggest the number of educational psychologists has fallen from 1,900 in 2010 to 1,530 in 2022.
It comes despite a rise in the number of children with additional needs, including those requiring Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs).
Educational psychologists assess pupils at school and can support school staff with specialist advice to help those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
Government funding is currently in place for 203 people to train to become educational psychologists in 2023 and 2024.
During a Q+A session internet forum Mumsnet on Wednesday, education secretary Gillian Keegan was asked if the government would increase the number of places available, and what it would do about pay.
Keegan said they were “vitally important” employees, but added “I know that we’ve got the increased numbers but I haven’t looked at the history of pay but I will take that away”.
Details and dates of the strike ballot are yet to be confirmed.
A spokesperson for the National Employers said it was unaware of AEP’s decision to hold a strike ballot and was “disappointed not to have been notified in advance”.
“A final offer was made last November to the Staff Associations for all Soulbury Officers, including Educational Psychologists, which was an increase of £1,925 for 2022,” they added.
“This has been reaffirmed and we have urged the AEP and the Staff Associations to accept this offer. Pay for all other workforces in local government have been settled for last year.”