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Job title
Educational psychologist
In September 2023, members of the Association of Educational Psychologists (AEP) union in England and Wales voted decisively in favour of taking industrial action over pay. 

It was the union’s first vote for industrial action since 2011 – but it secured AEP an improved pay offer which members accepted.

Two educational psychologists told the TUC why they voted to take action over pay. 

An educational psychologist (EP) from Wales told the TUC: “I became an EP to bring positive change – to improve outcomes for children and young people.  

“We’re running a vacancy in our department at the moment. We’ve advertised twice and didn’t have any applicants in response. 

What that really means is that fewer children can get through to see an EP, and certain children who would have been seen if we were fully staffed are not. "

Children waiting longer to be seen 

“Children are waiting longer in schools where they’re feeling really stuck – schools who have been wanting more input for some time.   

Even if the school talks to us about these children, we wouldn’t be involved straight away. And there are a number of children I know I’m still not involved in supporting. 

That’s a period of time when potentially a child is in distress. You prolong the period of time that child is struggling, and you prolong the time that the adults around them are struggling.   

At the moment, it feels more about firefighting: trying to handle the issues we have, rather than creating inclusive communities.   

It’s really important to me to have a healthy public sector that can meet its purpose. Children are more likely to see an EP if you have more EPs.”   

An educational psychologist from England said: “Where I work, there can be challenges to our work capacity.  

You can feel the stress. You go into a range of schools, and they say: ‘I haven’t seen an EP in forever’. 

If I ever stopped and reflected on it, I would probably feel really overwhelmed.  

We want to make sure children in really critical situations don’t miss out, so we prioritise children in care, children in transition situations, children with housing problems, children transferring schools, refugees. 

This means a lot of really high-needs cases, which is a lot of extra work.  

Back in the day, you would remember the children you worked with. Now, there’s such a quick turnaround of cases that it feels like you’re churning through them."

In-depth work often not possible 

“We always care about the child, but in-depth work is often not possible. Often, it can feel like you are just turning around reports, rather than prolonged involvement that can have a long-term impact. There’s a lot of firefighting, basically.  

Retention of EPs helps to develop consistency and provide in-depth work with schools who have bought in or have been allocated EP time.  

I don’t think the amount of pay we receive is a fair representation of amount of education we have or the work that we deliver. I’ve had an effective pay cut in the past 10 years. 

If we were in the private sector, we’d be paid a lot more and have a better work-life balance. 

Every year, more and more people are reducing their local authority days, for work-life balance, family circumstances or to make a bit more money through private work.   

I hope that with an increase to our pay, we will see more EPs in local authority and ultimately better outcomes for the children and young people we support. “ 

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