Schools lose psychology back-up

19th September 1997 at 01:00
A recruitment crisis among educational psychologists is threatening the quality+ of their service, it was claimed this week. Three leading psychological + organisations are pressing the Government to launch a special scheme to attract+ senior school staff into the profession. Sixteen posts are currently proving + impossible to fill.Problems caused by an ageing workforce, variations in + service between council employers and lack of financial support for trainee + psychologists were cited by the Association of Scottish Principal Educational + Psychologists, the Scottish Division of Educational Psychology of the British + Psychological Society, and the Educational Psychologists National Network of + the Educational Institute of Scotland.The psychologists were due to present + their case to the Education Minister, at their annual conference in Edinburgh + yesterday (Thursday). Brian Wilson said he was "well aware of the important + contribution educational psychologists make to the education of children".The + agencies say there are enough psychology graduates in schools but few financial+ incentives to leave teaching to train for a further two years to become an + educational psychologist. Two-year courses at Strathclyde and Dundee + Universities produce 12 graduates a year but numbers are not enough to keep + pace with vacancies. The agencies want the Scottish Office to raise the intake + to 24.Bryan Kirkaldy, a spokesman, said: "We are predicting a further + shortfall on the basis of an ageing profession and reckon there should be 12 + additional recruits each year over a 10-year period."Figures show that 57 per + cent of educational pyschologists are aged 45 and over and are likely to retire+ by 2007. More than eight out of ten psychologists under the age of 40 are + women and there are no male pyschologists under the age of 30. The average + level of support for trainees south of the border was #163;32,000 against + #163;12,500 in Scotland. This meant that anyone with dependants was unlikely + to apply.A report submitted to the Scottish Office and the Convention of + Scottish Local Authoritie s, emphasises the "massive progressive increase in + workload" on the 339 full-time equivalent staff across the country. + Psychologists are dealing with anything from challenging behaviour, severe and + profound learning difficulties, and sensory impairments to specific conditions + such as dyslexia, autism and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder.Parents+ are said to be much more demanding and more pupils are being referred.Mr + Kirkaldy, a principal psychologist in Fife, said: "There has been a great + increase in the number of children with special needs. The Warnock report said + it could be up to 20 per cent of pupils and we think that is quite an accurate + global estimate. It can be 1:3 in certain schools and 1:10 in others. But the + 1:10 may present most problems."Colleagues were extending into areas like + anti-bullying, early intervention strategies and preparing for traumatic + incidents, Mr Kirkaldy said, following the emphasis on prevenion in a recent + HMI report.Staffing levels have not been cut following local government reform + but posts are now more difficult to fill and staffing levels vary greatly. + Roughly 15 extra psychologists would be needed to bring Scotland up to minimum + standards, in addition to filling the 16 vacancies. They want councils to + accept a ratio of one officer to 3,600 young people, a midway figure for + mainland authorities. The current range is from 1:3,000 to 1:4,600.

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