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The right psychology

PSYCHOLOGISTS have struck it lucky, at least in terms of their professional roles. They have an inquiry report into their recruitment difficulties and daily duties that at first reading appears to address many of their interest groups' long-standing concerns. They have a minister in Cathy Jamieson - someone who understands work at the sharp end with children - who acknowledges their valuable contribution and wants to give them a central place in co-ordinating action for children at local level.

Significantly, the Currie report adopts the line espoused by many psychologists that their work is far wider than dealing with records of need and a narrow section of children. As Ms Jamieson pointed out this week, records are already set to be replaced by co-ordinated support plans. It could, of course, be a change in name only without further reform in schools where staff are being asked to take on more work that they have often shovelled off to external agencies. Psychologists could still be bogged down in admin and special educational needs without a commensurate shift in attitude and practice elsewhere. That is still likely.

Psychologists have an image problem. They need to be recognised as essential partners in classroom learning, even if they are spread thinly through pre-school to secondary and now into post-school work with vulnerable young people in further education. The catch-all of social inclusion and raising attainment gives them the perfect opportunity to re-engage with the mainstream.

Then there is the critical issue of pay and conditions. Psychologists want a tie-up with the McCrone deal since 75 per cent of recruits come from the profession. Pay scales will have to be addressed soon. But employers will argue that they do different jobs, with different conditions. Angst over McCrone should not obscure the opportunities ahead.

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