Educational psychologists warn funding of training places could place most vulnerable children at risk

The Association of Educational Psychologists (AEP) will today warn that a combination of uncertain funding for trainees and greater demands on practicing professionals could put vulnerable children and young people at risk – with new figures also showing a decline in local authority spending on educational psychology services.

In a speech to the TUC Conference in Bournemouth this afternoon, AEP President John Drewicz will warn that the educational psychologist workforce could struggle to cope with additional demands from a Children and Families Bill that will guarantee children’s, young people’s and families’ access to services such as educational psychologists and the extension of service provision to the age of 25 in the cases of the most vulnerable. Drewicz will point to a current lack of clarity in the funding of educational psychology training places after 2016, which he will claim could lead to fewer newcomers to the profession; while increased demands on local authority teams could also reduce opportunities for in-job training to provide vital experience for trainees.

Responses from 43 local authorities to Freedom of Information requests made on behalf of the AEP have shown a decline of nearly five percent in local authority budgets for educational psychology services between 2009/10 and 2012/13 (from £40,178,129 to £38,791,774 across the 43 local authorities). A separate survey of principal educational psychologists and managers by the AEP has found that 46 percent of respondents believed their teams had issued more statements of Special Educational Needs in 2012 than in 2011, suggesting at the increased demands on the workforce.

John Drewicz, President of the Association of Educational Psychologists, said:

“We welcome wholeheartedly the move to guarantee children’s access to educational psychologists and the extension of services to the age 25 where appropriate. But our message today is that these measures will have an effect on the existing workforce, and action needs to be taken to make sure that we are able to cope and meet the needs of the most vulnerable.

“While the figures we’ve obtained show a relatively modest reduction in spending on educational psychology services over the last four years, this must be set against the backdrop of the additional demands on the workforce and the problems on the horizon for the training of our next generation. The simple fact is that the resources aren’t in place to cope with these additional demands, and once the problems with training funding are factored in we are looking at a major issue of service provision that will ultimately affect vulnerable children and young people.”

The AEP is calling for the Government to make continued funding available for the training of educational psychologists and for sufficient educational psychologists to be in place to meet the additional needs of schools and local authorities.