A new council investment and recruitment drive has been unveiled to help reduce the time children wait to get the education health and care assessments and early intervention support they need.
With rapidly rising demands for educational psychologist advice to inform these assessments, the council has had to turn to agency staff, increasing the costs for the taxpayer.
The investment, worth more than £300k over three years, includes a recruitment drive and a new approach to employing trainees as part of a ‘grow your own’ programme to recruit educational psychologists straight from training.
Together, these changes will represent an increase in the county council’s Educational Psychology Service, as part of the council’s efforts to improve the experience of children, young people and their parents through the education, health and care plan process in Nottinghamshire and reduce waiting times for assessments.
Increasing the capacity of the Educational Psychology Service is part of the council’s priorities to address ongoing demand and following recommendations from this year’s local area special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) inspection.
Nottinghamshire, like many other areas nationally, has experienced a significant increase in the number of EHC assessments commissioned. This investment in recruitment, and offers of employment for trainee posts, is needed to address the rise in demand, reduce the amount of time children are waiting for an assessment and provide essential early intervention support.
Recruiting to the team will mean that over the next three years, Nottinghamshire’s Educational Psychology Service is more in line with similar teams in the region and will, over time, lead to a reduced need for agency staff, which costs significantly more.
Statutory educational psychologist advice is required for every Education, Health and Care (EHC) assessment the council commissions. This work is required to be completed within timelines and currently, the inability to meet timelines has been identified as a serious weakness by the Area SEND Inspection.
Councillor Tracey Taylor, Nottinghamshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Families, commented, “Our investment in this service is vital if we are to improve the experiences of children, young people and families in Nottinghamshire. We are determined to make sure that they can get the help they need earlier and improve the waiting times for assessments.
“We recognise the significant issues for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities both locally and nationally. We have seen a 60 per cent increase in education, health and care needs assessment requests across Nottinghamshire since 2019, alongside the challenge of a national shortage of educational psychologists.
“The service is already doing what it can to recruit more but additional investment is needed and demonstrates our commitment to making sure we improve the experiences of and outcomes for children with additional needs. Our investment will also reduce the overall costs to the taxpayer which makes financial sense.”
Samantha Yates, previously an assistant educational psychologist with the council who is about to embark on the three-year doctorate training programme, said, “I’m passionate about working with young people and supporting education settings to create more positive experiences for our children and families. I know the challenges that schools, families and pupils are facing and feel their frustrations in the education system, especially linked to SEND.
“Working directly with a young person or group, when they are experiencing difficulties in education can make a positive difference at a crucial time. Sometimes the little things can make a big difference; there is real power in listening to people and creating subtle shifts in thinking to help move things forward, is really rewarding work.
“As an assistant educational psychologist, we work to support, and hopefully, ease service pressures all while learning from our colleagues. I love the variety of this role – no two days are the same – and I would encourage anyone thinking about educational psychology, to get experience where you can which helps if you want to fully qualify and to decide if this is the right career for you.
“There are challenges; it’s not all roses, but we are valued and well supported. Nottinghamshire is a fantastic team with a holistic and child-centred approach and that isn’t created overnight. The culture of support and growth is very much about the people first. Not only in terms of the families, schools and young people but also in terms of my own development as a professional too.
“This new investment is good news for the service and for assistants and trainees like me, who can gain the experience needed and have more certainty about a role to move in to when training. It’s also good for children and families who will benefit from a better equipped service, reduced waiting times and potentially more continuity in their relationships with the specialists they work with.”