Use existing Covid cash for educational psychologist boost, councils told

Councils will have to use existing funding to pay for extra educational psychologists to help pupils readjust to school.

The Department for Education this week called for recently retired educational psychologists, or those still working but with capacity, to make themselves known to councils to assist with pupil wellbeing as schooling resumes.

However, when pressed on whether town halls would receive additional funding to pay for the temporary cover, the department pointed to £500 million already provided to councils to respond to the pressures of the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Local Government Association today welcomed the DfE’s invitation, but warned that councils needed “dedicated, long-term funding” to be able to recruit the right people.

The DfE’s call follows warnings from psychologists that the lockdown has exacerbated “feelings of entrapment, loneliness, hopelessness and anger” in pupils. They have also been away from school for the best part of six months and would struggle to adjust to their return to the classroom.

However, the push for more support comes after a long fall in the numbers of educational psychologists in schools.

Between 2010 and 2015 the number employed by local authorities dropped by 13 per cent, while a government-commissioned report last year warned that more than 90 per cent of LA principal educational psychologists could not met the demand for their services.

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 provide “temporary support for children and young people returning to educational settings in September 2020 . . . for up to 13 weeks”.

However, it looks like the government does not expect them all to be in place this month, setting a closing date of November 30 for expressions of interests.

Professionals have been asked to contact the relevant local authority by email. A list of contacts is provided online.

The DfE announced last year that it would provide more than £30 million to train new educational psychologists, with more than 600 receiving grants and help with tuition costs. The first cohort of 203 trainees are due to begin their training this month.