APS advocacy for more psychologists in schools gains momentum 

Australian Psychological Society

The Federal Government has released its Review to Inform a Better and Fairer Education System, recognising that students and teachers need greater access to psychologists.

In line with APS advocacy and advice, the review recommends investment in evidence-based resources for preventing, identifying, implementing and evaluating wellbeing outcomes in schools. This includes access to professional psychology and counselling services consistent with the needs of individual schools, including via clear referral pathways to affordable and timely services.

The review’s own commissioned survey of educators, parents and students also found additional psychologist and counselling support ranked number one in terms of importance.

This welcome recommendation recognises and prioritises the role of psychologists in the assessment, care and referral of children and adolescents in need of mental health support. Psychologists are also well-placed to train, coach and advise school staff about mental health and wellbeing matters and lead whole school mental health promotion and prevention programs.

APS advocacy

The APS has long been advocating for more psychologists in schools. Our position statement, together with various submissions and media awareness campaigns have driven important discussion on the issue for many years now.

We know from our members that early intervention helps children; 50 per cent of mental health disorders start before the age of 14. Young Australians are suffering from high levels of psychological distress with 82% experiencing mental health issues and 25% thinking about suicide during the pandemic. In Australia, suicide is the leading cause of death for people aged 5-17 years old.

We are delighted to have contributed to this positive advocacy outcome. While there’s still plenty of work to be done to bring psychology services to the children and adolescents who need them, it is a positive step in the right direction.

The review is clear that students and teachers need greater access to psychologists which is a great step forward. However, we are disappointed there was no recommendation endorsing the APS recommended 1:500 psychologist to student ratio. We look forward to partnering with the government to deliver more practical and evidence-based solutions.

‘Psychologists in schools’ position statement

Our ‘Psychologists in schools’ position statement outlines key recommendations based on psychological evidence about investing in the mental health of school-aged children via whole school approaches to universal mental health promotion and prevention and early intervention for mental ill-health.

The APS recommends:

  • Schools need access to multi-tiered, evidence-based, whole school mental health and wellbeing programs and a dedicated and highly skilled national psychology workforce to lead, coordinate and support school-based mental health and wellbeing programming and evaluation.

  • Funding is required to achieve a minimum ratio of one full-time equivalent school psychologist for every 500 students. With just over 4 million students in Australian schools, at least 8,000 school psychologists are needed now.

  • There is a critical need to grow the number of qualified psychologists through increased funding for postgraduate training, placements and supervision. Funding to increase the number of psychologists in schools will only work if we have enough trained psychologists.

  • Dedicated training places and scholarships are urgently needed in rural and remote areas and to increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation in school psychologist roles

Thank you to all members, who contributed to our position statement and supported our advocacy on this important issue.

Further reading

Read the full Review to Inform a Better and Fairer Education System here.

Read our ‘Psychologists in schools’ position statement here.

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