By Joshua Robinson –
Thousands of educational psychologists across England and Wales will take strike action on the 15th November in a dispute over pay, workload, and the shortage of educational psychologists to support children at a time of rising demand.
Strike action will also take place in the majority of local authorities across England and Wales today, along with rallies in London (Smith Square, opposite the LGA HQ) and Cardiff (Sennedd steps) to be addressed by leading figures from the AEP, the TUC and other unions.
There has been a 77.3% increase in requests for an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) statutory assessment from an Educational Psychologist in England, according to government figures. The number of requests for an assessment was 64,555 in 2017. This rose to 114,457 in 2022.
The number of pupils who have EHCPs increased from 242,184 to 389,171 over five years from 2017 to 2022. The Association of Educational Psychologists (AEP) believes the pandemic has contributed to this, along with other factors, including a reduction in earlier interventions to support children’s learning. In Wales, 74,661 students were identified with Additional Learning Needs in 2021/22.
The shortage of educational psychologists is at a crisis level in many local authority areas. Educational Psychologists are leaving the local authority workforce, either leaving the profession or moving to locum or private work and not enough are being trained and entering the profession.
The Issues Educational Psychologists Face:
The Government’s recent report on the Educational Psychology workforce is available here: Educational psychology services: workforce insights and school perspectives on impact (publishing.service.gov.uk).
The report’s key points are:
- 88% of local authorities report difficulties recruiting Educational Psychologists, with 48% citing pay as a key reason.
- A third of local authorities reporting difficulties with the retention of Educational Psychologists
- 69% of local authorities are‘ not confident’ they will be able to meet the demand for educational psychologist services if there is no change in funding, training, and service delivery models.
- 96% of local authorities reporting recruitment and/or retention issues stated that these difficulties affected outcomes for children and young people requiring support.
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The AEP, the trade union and professional body representing educational psychologists, says the issue of pay is a key factor in recruitment and retention issues. Trade unions have rejected a pay offer of an average of 3%, which they say represents a real terms cut in pay at a time when inflation is running at 10%.
It is also well below pay settlements agreed with other public sector workers. Following this, 58.33% of educational psychologists in Kirklees Council voted to undertake industrial action.
Dr Cath Lowther, General Secretary of AEP, said: “Every year, tens of thousands of children and young people and their families are helped by an educational psychologist (EP). While local authorities express how much they value the vital services and support provided by EPs, they have not realistically invested in the profession and now face widespread recruitment and retention problems.”
“The resulting rise in EP workloads means that children and young people are waiting far too long to be seen by an EP – or worse, don’t get to see an EP at all. Our strike action is about saying loud and clear that our children deserve to see an educational psychologist when they need to.”
“Our employers have offered just 3% at a time when inflation is running at over 10% and many of our members are struggling to pay their bills. This amounts to a real-terms cut in pay and will compound the recruitment and retention crisis in our profession which has seen spiralling workloads and long wait times for children, young people and families who need support.”
After a decade in which real terms pay for Educational Psychologists has fallen, the AEP has submitted a claim for at least 9% on all pay points. The employers’ side offer works out at between 2-5%, depending on EP’s current pay, and on average is around a 3% offer.
The AEP held a ballot on industrial action in most local authority areas. The vote resulted in 136 out of the 157 local authorities balloting, meeting the threshold for participation and voting Yes.
Strike action will take place in these local authority areas, and EPs will also come together at two rallies:
- London rally: 10.30 am, 15th November, Smith Square: Speakers include AEP General Secretary Dr Cath Lowther, TUC General Secretary, Paul Nowack, GFTU General Secretary, Gawain Little, and local EPs.
- Cardiff rally: 3.00 pm, 15th November, Senedd steps: Speakers include AEP President Dewi Hughes, General Secretary Dr Cath Lowther, Brendan Kelly, Vice President of Wales TUC, and representatives from the NEU.