Not enough of us to be set free;Letter

15th October 1999 at 01:00
GERALD Haigh is quite right when says that educational psychologists would welcome being "freed from routine and unnecessary work... (so that they could)... involve themselves in training teachers on whole-school learning issues, and in running programmes for authorities, schools and individuals that might prevent some special needs problems starting in the first place ("Free psychologists from the fray", TES, October 1) .

However, the logical extension of his argument is that a special educational needs co-ordinator, albeit along with others all less well qualified than an educational psychologist, is well placed to decide whether a child needs to see an educational psychologist.

Would he be happy with a nurse (also "dedicated and knowledgeable") being able to decide whether he needs to see a brain surgeon?

Educational psychologists are statutorily involved in the identification, assessment and treatment of children with special needs. Quite rightly, they can be held to account for the quality of their work.

The increasing litigiousness of society has caused them to practice very defensively, often against their will and better judgment.

This increased tendency to seek redress in the courts, never envisaged in the 1981 Education Act or its subsequent modifications, has led to the increase in bureaucracy under which most psychologists are labouring.

According to our latest staffing survey more than 60 per cent of all London education authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are being forced to operate with less than their full complement of educational psychologists. Under such circumstances, service delivery will not be the best that is possible.

Educational psychologists know that they can, and they want to, do better. And that means that they must be allowed to do more preventive work.

In the meantime, special educational needs co-ordinators, heads, governors and parents alike will want this educational psychologist to do all of the preventive things Gerald Haigh advocates just so long as it doesn't delay the children in their school getting a statement of SEN, and the resources that accompany it.

J Brian Harrison-Jennings

General secretary

Association of Educational

Psychologists

Kew

Richmond

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