The government will not fully switch to a new system for assessing pupils with special needs by the target date because of a lack of educational psychologists, a new survey has found.
Ministers asked local authorities to begin the process of replacing statements of special educational needs with new education, health and care plans (EHCs) in September 2014 and set a deadline that all eligible children would be transferred to the new system by April 2018.
Educational psychologists have a statutory role in providing advice or information to local authorities for children who are being assessed for an EHC plan.
But the Association of Educational Psychologists, a union and professional association, says that in at least a third of authorities the deadline will not, or is unlikely to, be met.
'Just not enough of them'
The association surveyed representatives from educational psychologist services working for the 148 local authorities. It had a responses from 70 per cent of services.
- 94 per cent of respondents reported increasing demand for their services. There were no reports of decreasing demand;
- 33 per cent of respondents said their educational psychology service "will not", "probably will not" or is "unlikely" to convert all statements of educational needs to education, health and care plans within the three-year target set by the government;
- 68 per cent of the educational psychology services that responded had vacancies – 172 full-time equivalents in total.
The EHC plans have a broader focus than statements, which concerned only a child’s education, and continue into further education and up to the age of 25.
“Educational psychologists play a vital role in improving children’s lives in schools across the country and we welcome the growing recognition of, and demand for, the services they provide. But the plain fact is that there are just not enough of them,” Kate Fallon, general secretary of the AEP, said.
The TUC will debate a motion during its conference, which begins on September 11, calling for more government funding to train educational psychologists.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We want all children to fulfil their potential and for those with additional needs, we know that early intervention and the right professional support is crucial.
"That’s why we are already funding 380 educational psychology students and investing over £14 million on an additional 300 training places over the next two years, to help bolster the workforce."