Distinctively Scottish

Martin Gemmell on educational psychology north of the border.

It was good to see an interview with an educational psychologist get in The Psychologist (Careers, October 2017). In Scotland we have a different system.

Despite calls for things like academies and dismantling of local authorities, we remain completely within the public service. This is a good thing because education is not a business. It is an entitlement, and good-quality education should be available to every child regardless of their financial circumstances. Academies work no better or worse than local authority schools. Some are good, some indifferent and some have closed. I am hopeful the Scottish government does not go down this line. Educational psychology should also be free to those who need it. Trading services is a bad idea. I am also hopeful the Scottish government does not copy England and Wales in moving to such a system. Dr Shield raises the question of ethical trading, and I ask, Is it actually possible to trade something ethically? Trade unless it involves barter is always going to involve some sort of deal that is more favourable to one party than the other. The example quoted where schools become more demanding if they have paid for a service is a case in point.

All is not rosy in Scotland. Our training route is under pressure as funding was withdrawn. The Scottish government argued cogently that because all undergraduate fees were paid they would not fund our rather expensive postgraduate courses which are based on two years at university and one year in practice with a day a week reserved for studying for the Qualification in Educational Psychology (Scotland). This is not ideal, but it does get you into the HCPC and allow you to use the title Educational Psychologist.

What we do have in our wee country is a collegiate approach to our profession. We run the qualification ourselves (with some support from the BPS). We do not charge candidates for the assessment of their work. (However, the BPS does charge them for the qualification.)

What we also have in our mildly left-of-centre country is an ongoing commitment to public services which should be free at the point of contact. We also have an ongoing tradition dating back to the Scottish Enlightenment of using empirical data to establish ways of going forward and a reluctance to enforce polemical decisions with no actual data accurately determining their worth (such as academies or traded services, ethical or otherwise) on the electorate.

Martin Gemmell
Principal Educational Psychologist
City of Edinburgh Council
Chair of the Qualification in Educational Psychology (Scotland)

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