Ill-informed comment on psychologists;Letter

2nd April 1999 at 01:00
IT WAS with dismay that I read the sensationalised account (TESS, March 26) of our psychological service's "best value" report.

I assume that your reporter, David Henderson, was present at Scottish Borders' most recent education committee when the report was presented. He does grave disservice to that 40-page report, summarising six months' work by a team of eight (including a parent representative) by his reporting of three or four "media bites" out of context with attribution to myself alone.

The headline, "Learning support crisis hits Borders", was my initial concern. Nowhere in the report was the word "crisis" used or implied. A carefully constructed body of evidence covering the whole service was presented, including some operational aspects, which were related to, or affected by, the low staffing complement of the service.

The "learning support" link was equally misleading as this suggests the provision of learning support is linked to the psychological service. This is not the case as that service is managed separately by the adviser (support for learning). Within the best value report this service was explicitly excluded from any evaluation or comment.

There are two references to what I "said". This is also misleading as it suggests your reporter interviewed me. I was not afforded that courtesy either before or after presenting the report to the committee. The references were decontextualised sentences from the written report and can only damage my task to advance the reasoned case presented.

I fear the "tabloid" tone of the article will lead to unnecessary anxiety among Scottish Borders parents who may have children with special needs, and who may be awaiting assessment or support from school support staff and psychologists.

Furthermore, I feel it undermines an emphatic response from councillors and council officials who have responded positively in the past year to highlighted difficulties in ever-increasing service demand, staffing deployment, management information systems, resourcing etc - all of which are also contained in the report.

Your report makes only passing reference to the excellent work of the existing team of psychologists and the positive feedback from parents and schools.

The acknowledged efficient and cost-effective deployment of service across a large sparsely populated region, the wide range of activities undertaken by the team and the integrated working of the service within a range of multi-professional networks-systems were operational aspects highlighted in the best value report, but totally ignored.

But I suppose good news doesn't sell papers or create exciting headlines.

Ken Dutton Principal psychologist Scottish Borders Council

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