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Alternative routes to addressing the crisis

In authorities such as Cumbria where large numbers of children are statemented - more than 4 per cent of school pupils - educational psychologists have found themselves absorbed by formal assessment.

That this is bureaucratic and expensive is undeniable.

Viewed increasingly as an inefficient use of resources many authorities are looking for alternative routes.

In an attempt to reduce the number of statements Cumbria is recycling resources into secondary schools for non-statutory assessment, basing need through screening using the Nelson cognitive abilities test developed by the National Foundation for Educational Research.

It is intended that schools then use their resources for psychologists' time to help draw up education plans for children without going down the statutory road. Educational psychologists in Cumbria now split their time in two; that at the disposal of the LEA for statutory assessment and review and that for non-statutory work in partnership with schools.

In Lincolnshire, educational psychologists have taken on the role of consultants. Dave Dickinson, Lincolnshire's principal EP, said: "We sit down with the school, they know how much time they have got, and we look at the most efficient and cost-effective way of dealing with a range of difficulties. We get an idea of the size of the special needs register, and this way we can pick up children in the earlier stages."

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