Key to SEN support-but worries about future shortages both of qualified staff and funding
Local authorities under real pressure
It is accepted that the 2,200 Educational psychologists (England and Wales) play a key part in helping to shape how educational settings approach a vast range of education issues through statutory and non-statutory work, including on curriculum development, generalised and complex special educational needs, support for the gifted and talented, behaviour management, and delivery of early-years provision. They also provide a vital role in offering strategic advice to local authorities across a range of children’s services, including for example, fostering and adoption . They offer crucial knowledge of child development. Help with early diagnosis and intervention, important for conditions such as autism. They also provide diagnostic advice and support. In their understanding of a child’s needs they can provide a tailored support package to assist them- crucial to their development. But there are growing concerns about their future funding. Educational psychologists are employed directly by the local authority, which therefore manages the training and deployment of staff. Since 2007, the Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC) has administered a funding scheme for the training of educational psychologists, to which local authorities are asked to contribute. But apparently they are not pulling their weight. Government cuts are putting local authorities under massive financial pressure, and local authorities are therefore finding it much harder to fund educational psychologists. There is a clear danger of this undermining the Governments SEN policy .Indeed, there is clear evidence that contributions from local authorities to the CWDC pot have been steadily decreasing. So far this year only 16 out of 150 local authorities have confirmed that they will be contributing, so leaving a significant shortfall in funding. In short, local authorities are not paying their share given that the money is included in local authority funding settlements.
And the Government is also publishing a Green Paper on SEN, probably this December, which aims to lay out the framework for the future. . So the onus will be on the Green paper , and indeed the Minister responsible, Sarah Teather, to clarify how this will all work in future and where the funding will come from. Over a hundred new educational psychologists have to enter the profession each year and quite a few of those currently in service are nearing retirement There is a national shortage and significant numbers of educational psychology services are carrying vacant posts. So it is something of a challenge. But what is clear is that uncertainty over the future will not help recruitment and a shortage of psychologists will undermine SEN policy. We shall have to await the Green Paper for some answers.