Warning over educational psychologist provision in Scotland

Child writing
Image caption Psychologists offer support with children's learning and wellbeing

There has been a warning that the number of educational psychologists in Scotland in dangerously low.

A report from the Scottish National Steering Group of Educational Psychologists said nearly a quarter might retire in the next four years.

It also said too few new trainees are being recruited.

The steering group said it feared some councils could breach their statutory obligations on provision if the situation does not improve.

The Scottish government said its committed to giving children with additional support needs the assistance they need.

Educational psychologists are employed to help tackle inequalities and improve the life chances of children with additional support needs and their families.

'Tipping point'

The steering group's report said the number of pupils identified as having additional support needs nearly trebled between 2006 and 2011.

Over the same period, national funding for the training of educational psychologists was withdrawn and council budgets came under growing pressure.

The report said that these three factors have put delivery of services in schools and communities under significant pressure.

It claimed a postcode lottery exists and that people in some areas have less access to educational psychologists, potentially putting them at risk.

Nearly 25% of Scottish educational psychologists are eligible to retire in the next four years, while the number of students training for the profession has dropped.

The steering group said it feared some local authorities may breach their statutory responsibilities to provide services that contribute towards the support and development of children and young people.

Roger Barrow, chairman of the Association of Scottish Principal Educational Psychologists, said the government needed to give councils clear guidance on how many educational psychologists they should have.

He said: "Educational psychologists play a crucial role in supporting vulnerable children and young people and contribute towards health and wellbeing and curricular initiatives, a role that is acknowledged by HM Inspectorate of Education in their 2011 Aspect Report and in a 2012 report from the education committee of the Scottish Parliament."

"However increased demand for services, cuts to local authority budgets and the withdrawal of funding for the training of educational psychologists place the profession close to a tipping point."

"A number of local authorities have been unable to employ a sufficient number of educational psychologists, and, unless national steps are taken to secure the workforce supply, then we are likely to see looked after children and those with additional support needs lose out on the core services that they need."

He added: "The Scottish government needs to provide clear guidance to local authorities about the number of educational psychologists required per head of population to safeguard an effective level of service for all our children and young people."

A Scottish government spokesman said: "While it is up to each local authority to identify and meet this demand, the Scottish government continues to monitor the delivery of this support through the National Scottish Steering Group for Educational Psychologists."

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