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Letter to the media – We must reinstate the bursary for trainee educational psychologists

We noted with considerable interest the article and editorial highlighting the fall in the number of educational psychologists, from 411 in 2012 to 370 in 2015, an issue we have been campaigning on for some time (The Herald – 1st October).

This drop is set against the background of an increase in the number of children and young people identified with Additional Support Needs (ASN), from 131,621 in 2013 to 153,190 in 2015.

Our concerns around this fall have been raised with the Scottish Government, debated in the Scottish Parliament and were highlighted in our Manifesto in the run up to the Scottish Parliamentary elections.

A report from the Association of Scottish Principal Education Psychologists in 2013 highlighted that while there had been a greatly increased demand for psychological services, the number of educational psychologists has declined to the same number that they were at in 2001, when it was recognised by the Scottish Executive that there was an “urgent need to recruit and train more.” This number as noted, has dropped even further since.

This fall correlates with the withdrawal of the bursary paid to trainee educational psychologists in 2012, the reinstatement of which we have been seeking. It is of course, something of an anomaly that an educational psychologist is responsible for meeting the entire £18,000 university tuition fee from their own pocket, whereas a students studying clinical psychology receives a training salary of £25,500.

With the number of those identified with ASN rising, and a desire by the Scottish Government to tackle the educational attainment gap, it is disturbing to see a fall in the number of those very specialists who play such a key role in addressing the needs of these vulnerable children and young people.

What is vital is the reinstatement of the bursary, ensuring that we are delivering an adequate pipeline of educational psychologists, and that local authorities do not cut these services any further in the next budgeting round.

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The SCSC is a collection of leading independent and third sector service providers. Members deliver specialist care and education services for children and young people with complex needs and care experience.