Schools

Top educational psychologist course closes after DfE funding reallocation

UCL's doctorate in educational psychology, the longest-established course of its kind, has begun 'winding down' due to fewer funded places

UCL's doctorate in educational psychology, the longest-established course of its kind, has begun 'winding down' due to fewer funded places

18 Jun 2023, 5:00

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UCL is winding down its doctorate course in educational psychology

The longest-established training programme for educational psychologists will close after the government reallocated funding outside London and the south east.

Professionals fear pupils in the region could now face longer waits for help.

UCL is “winding down” its training after 24 years because of a dip in government-funded places.

The Department for Education has extended its scheme to train three cohorts of 200 educational psychologists from 2024, as part of a £32.2 million contract, but just 65 are for providers in London and the south east. This compares with  80 under the scheme that ends next year.

Other regions will be expected to deliver 139 places per cohort, up from 120.

The Association of Educational Psychologists (AEP) warned reallocating cash from the capital would “limit access” to professionals for vulnerable children in the region at a time when many are “already struggling” to see them

UCL accepted the final recruits on to its CPD doctorate in educational psychology in January. The Institute of Education, UCL’s faculty of education and society, also runs a doctoral programme. 

In a letter to staff seen by Schools Week, the university said it was “not financially viable to maintain two overlapping programmes within the reduced funding envelope”.

Move could ‘limit access’ to educational psychologists

Cath Lowther, the general secretary of the AEP, said the UCL course was “highly renowned and greatly valued by local authorities who provide placement for trainees and who recruit EPs who qualify via that course”. 

The government scheme offers a free postgraduate doctorate if graduates then work for at least two years in a local authority or alternative setting. 

“The course closing… will reduce access to places in London, potentially decreasing the diversity of the profession and limiting access to EPs for vulnerable children and young people in the area,” she said.

Workforce figures suggest the number of educational psychologists in England has fallen from 1,900 in 2010, to 1,530 last year, although there are now 517,026 children with education health and care plans, a rise of 46 per cent since 2019.

Educational psychologists assess pupils at school and can support staff to help those with special educational needs and disabilities

Lowther said the AEP has advertised 119 positions in London and the south east since January, versus 78 in the same period in 2020. 

“We understand there are gaps in training provision within England…however, we would have hoped increasing numbers of training places overall would have been a more effective approach,” she said.

The DfE said funding will be “distributed to help boost course places where they are needed most”.

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