Shortage of psychologists set to worsen

The only training course for educational psychologists in Scotland next year will not run

Emma Seith

Teachers need support to talk to pupils about mental health issues, argues one expert

The only university in Scotland due to offer educational psychology training next year has said it will not be running the course, meaning that there may be no new entrants to the profession in 2021.

The decision will be seen as another blow to educational psychology, which has been grappling with shortages for a number of years.

The University of Strathclyde and the University of Dundee offer the two-year MSc educational psychology course in alternate years. This year, Dundee will run the course and next year it should have been Strathclyde, but the university told Tes Scotland: “Owing to changing patterns of demand for this course, the programme will not run in session 2019-20.”

The decision not to run the course appears to fly in the face of Scottish government policy.

Earlier this year, the government announced £4 million funding – to be spread over three years – to help with educational psychologists' training fees and living costs, saying it was hoped the support would lead to universities recruiting 30 trainees every year.

The announcement of additional support came after Tes Scotland reported warnings from teachers that pupils with special needs and mental health problems were not getting the support they needed, due to an acute shortage of educational psychologists.

Education secretary and deputy first minister John Swinney said at the time that the funding would ultimately “help thousands of school pupils across Scotland”.

The number of students on educational psychology courses has been falling since bursaries of £49,000 over two years were scrapped. In 2010, when the bursary was available, 127 students applied to the course, but this had fallen to just 43 applicants in 2016.

The recently announced £4 million package was meant to remove financial barriers for those with ambitions to enter the profession, and to encourage more students to join the MSc.

The University of Dundee told Tes Scotland it envisaged continuing with its current plan, meaning that its next batch of educational psychology students – after the current intake starting this year – would be in 2020-21 and would finish their studies in 2022.

A Scottish government spokesman said: “Strathclyde University has yet to inform us of its intentions, but no matter what it decides, we have significantly invested to make sure our children and young people get the support they need.

“We have developed a new training model for educational psychologists and agreed partnership funding worth an initial £4 million with [local authorities body] Cosla to meet fees and living costs. We are also in continuing discussions with universities to deliver the 30 new educational psychologists a year we have committed to.”

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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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