Concerns grow over rise in students needing additional support while educational psychologists numbers fall

05/10/2016
david.thomson

Growing crisis in educational psychology in Scotland after dramatic rise of the number of pupils needing Additional Support Needs and shortfall of the number of educational psychologists working in Scotland

FEARS over a growing crisis within educational psychology are heightening following a sharp increase in pupils with Additional Support Needs and a drop in educational psychologists working in Scotland.

The number of pupils requiring Additional Support Needs has risen from 131,621 in 2013 to 153,190 in 2015, while Scottish Government ministers were forced to admit in the summer that the number of educational psychologists has dropped by 10 per cent from 411 in 2012 to 370 in 2015.

Many practitioners expect that Scotland will need to recruit from elsewhere in the UK to make up the shortfall in educational psychologists.

The number of pupils requiring Additional Support Needs has risen from 131,621 in 2013 to 153,190 in 2015.

The Scottish Government said that it is up to each local authority to make decisions around the number of educational psychologists it employs.

A Scottish Government spokesperson told CommonSpace: “We are working in partnership with the National Scottish Steering Group for Educational Psychologists, which includes representatives from the profession and Universities, COSLA and ADES to ensure a sustainable supply of educational psychologists to meet potential future needs.

“The group is continuing to monitor workforce planning data and trends including the number of applicants to training courses as well as the universities’ plans for student intakes.

“They are taking action, including exploring training provision, to ensure a sustainable and regular supply of educational psychologists.”

Scottish Government ministers were forced to admit in the summer that the number of educational psychologists has dropped by 10 per cent from 411 in 2012 to 370 in 2015.

Dundee University – one of two universities in Scotland that provides a postgraduate course in educational psychology – confirmed to CommonSpace that the working group is looking at some future options for a provision that includes distance learning and creating a doctorate.

The cuts to the number of educational psychologists working in Scotland was blamed on decreasing bursary amounts that students get to support them through university.

In 2012, the Scottish Government decided to introduce an £18,000 tuition fee, which trainee educational psychologists will need to pay from their own pockets, on top of having to cover their living costs during their two-year postgraduate course.

“Since the grant to students was withdrawn there has been only a slight reduction overall in the numbers taking up a trainee educational psychologists university place.” Scottish Government

Before that, students had a training salary of £25,000, made up by the NHS, Education Scotland and health boards.

As a result, the number of students that have been offered a place at university has dramatically dropped. In 2011, Strathclyde University offered 24 places to students; in 2015, the number dropped to 12.

The Scottish Government spokesperson added: “There are a number of factors which influence a potential students decision to undertake postgraduate training.

“The £18,000 tuition fee plus accommodation and living expenses is beyond the reach of many people who otherwise have the skills and desire to enter this profession so there are genuine fears for the future of these courses.” Monica Lennon MSP 

“Since the grant to students was withdrawn there has been only a slight reduction overall in the numbers taking up a trainee educational psychologists university place.”

Scottish Labour inequalities spokesperson, Monica Lennon, said: “Pupils with Additional Support Needs need the Scottish Government to urgently address the growing crisis in the educational psychology workforce.

“SNP ministers were warned five years ago that if they went ahead and cut bursaries for trainee educational psychologists, university courses at Dundee and Strathclyde would struggle to attract candidates. Sadly, the cuts have had the predicted effect. 

“The £18,000 tuition fee plus accommodation and living expenses is beyond the reach of many people who otherwise have the skills and desire to enter this profession so there are genuine fears for the future of these courses.”

Picture courtesy of Converse College

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