Shortage of child psychologists on cards after training funds blunder

The supply of educational psychologists could “collapse” following a funding distribution mistake by local government representatives, a charity has claimed.

The British Psychological Society said there was funding for only 79 of the 150 educational psychology training places needed for the academic year beginning in September and called on the government to underwrite the shortfall. Until this year funding for the courses was distributed by the Local Government Association to universities.

But the society said the LGA decided to disperse the money through local authorities this year, despite assurances they would delay the change for a year to allow training providers to prepare for it.

And it claimed the LGA mistakenly distributed the money to district councils, which have no responsibility for education, as well as to county and unitary authorities. Efforts to retrieve the money have recovered only enough money to fund the 79 places, the society said.

Society president Professor Pam Maras said: “If the money is not available then sufficient numbers of professionals will not be able to begin their training. This would mean there was not enough trained staff coming through the system to meet the needs of vulnerable children and young people.”

Norah Fredericson, professor of educational psychology at University College London, said distributing the money to individual authorities made no sense as most did not have a university providing educational psychology training in their area.

“It’s left things in a complete state of chaos,” she added.

Les Lawrence, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said: “The LGA has worked hard with both partners and professionals to ensure as much money as possible is available for the training of educational psychologists next year.”

A Department for Education and Skills spokesperson said: “Discussions are still proceeding with regard to future funding arrangements. Educational psychologists are employees of local, not central, government and it would be inappropriate for the DfES to intervene in these discussions.”

Psychology in education
Educational psychologists work with young people with learning difficulties, emotional and behavioural problems to promote their educational development. They are typically employed by councils and most have a teaching background. From September 2006, one-year masters courses were replaced by three-year doctorate-level programmes as a training requirement.

Further information
Local Government Association

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  Simeon Brody


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