Why psychologists have to change;Letter

29th October 1999 at 01:00
BOTH your correspondents Brian Harrison-Jennings and Peter Farrell (TES, October 15) fail to grasp the simple message of Gerald Haigh's plea - "Free psychologists from the fray" (TES, October 1).

This message is that times have changed but the role of educational psychologists has stayed the same. The excuse that the time and effort of EPs is bogged down in the statutory assessment process is both wrong and misleading. It is wrong because EPs tend not to spend the majority of their time working on assessments, and it is misleading because it is the way in which they work which creates the problem they complain of.

The fundamental question is surely is, what do EPs do, what is it that teachers need, and who is best placed to provide it - specialist teachers, clinical psychologists, health therapists?

Until we deal with the question two things will happen. Firstly, schools will increasingly press pupils forward for statutory assessment and secondly EPs will continue to feel entrenched in the statutory mire. It is possible to construct an approach that deals with the argued shortage of EPs, but this requires recognition of the role other professionals can play.

A new approach, one that values and respects the broader, more expert role that psychologists could play, but encourages other professionals to have a key role, can ensure that schools have more access to the type of support they need early on, that EPs can provide consultancy advice and support on systemic issues and individual casework, and reduce the pressure for statutory assessments.

Until we adopt such an approach, we will be caught in a construct that sees the EPs take a defensive and protective approach to the ideas that Gerald Haigh and increasing numbers in the educational world promote, while shielding behind the argument of a national shortage of EPs to robustly protect the status quo.

Schools and others will not see the critical role a modernised service can play and the difference it can make to the fundamental task of understanding children's learning and driving up the standards they can achieve: until the profession accepts that the time has come to change, the service will fail to get the recognition it deserves.

Alan Wood

25 Auden Place

London NW1

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