The warning follows the publication of a long-awaited report on educational psychology. The report recommends an increased focus on preventative work with pre-school children, giving every school access to a link psychologist, and making services accessible to parents via help-lines and drop-in centres.
The report, from a Department for Education and Employment working group, has been welcomed by the British Psychological Society and the Association of Educational Psychologists.
But Brian Harrison-Jennings, the association's general secretary, said the number of educational psychologists would have to double to make all the improvemets suggested - problematic when 60 per cent of councils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland cannot fill existing posts.
He said long working hours and low pay compared to other psychologists and teachers were affecting recruitment. "Our members are working 40 to 50 hours a week, dashing from one assessment to another," he said.
There are around 2,400 educational psychologists. The starting salary - after a psychology degree, teaching qualification and experience, and a one-year masters course - is pound;24,474. Only 124 training places a year receive public funding.
A further report covering training and recruitment of educational psychologists is due from the DFEE this autumn.
For copies of "Educational Psychology Services (England)" tel 0845 60 222 60, quoting ref DFEE 01322000