By Annette Brooke MP - 17th October 2010
Annette Brooke MP writes for ePolitix.com ahead of her adjournment debate on the provision of education psychology services.
Educational psychologists (EPs) play a crucial role and are essential in helping deliver the government's agenda to improve educational outcomes for children with special educational needs.
Through the use of evidence based psychology, EPs help children make the most of learning opportunities in schools. They solve educational and social problems and problems arising from children's differing needs, through the application of psychology.
EPs play a key part in helping to shape how educational settings approach a vast range of educational issues through statutory and non-statutory work on curriculum development, generalised and complex Special Educational Needs (SEN), gifted and talented support, behaviour management and delivery of early years provision.
Armed with a thorough knowledge of child development, they offer diagnostic advice and support and are able to pick up on conditions and intervene quickly.
EPs engage with parents to help improve joined-up learning, developmental and wellbeing outcomes for children not only in educational settings but also at home.
The provision of educational psychology services now looks threatened by funding problems. The Children's Workforce Development Council (CWDC) collect subscriptions from local authorities to pay for the Higher Education Institution (HEI) fees and bursaries of trainee EPs.
For the past year there has been a considerable shortfall in the monies collected by the CWDC. With upcoming cuts in public spending and the increasing financial pressures facing local authorities in the future, this situation is only likely to get worse.
The CWDC has frozen the recruitment of EP trainees for the next academic intake. The official line is that there is no information as yet about training, or the funding arrangements for training next year.
There is a very immediate and real danger that the university courses will find themselves without a new cohort of trainees for 2011, or the funding they have depended on from local authorities and will simply be unable to continue to function. Students who are part way through their doctorate training will not be able to complete it, and there will be significantly fewer, if any, new EPs qualifying and entering the workforce.
This will be in a context where the coalition has made a commitment to ensuring prompt access to high quality specialist assessment and specialist provision.
The problems in funding are threatening numbers. And this has implications for workforce levels and the ability of local authorities to deliver on their statutory responsibilities for the safeguarding, wellbeing and education of their children and young people.
If the work of educational psychologists is restricted to only statutory assessment and reactive casework in order to maintain quality of service delivery, the capacity of staff to be involved in equally vital, but non-statutory, preventative work is reduced. This would preclude pro-active work with children, teachers, all professionals who work within children's services and parents to maximise the chances of successful outcomes from early intervention and would mitigate the need for such high levels of statutory assessment in the first place.
The government must look again at the way in which educational psychology training is funded.
There is an urgent need for clarity on what arrangements will be in place to support training in 2011.
And there is also an urgent need to look again at the voluntary and unsustainable nature of current funding to ensure that national funds are made available to train and maintain good levels of EPs.