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Children with Learning Difficulties Missing Out on Support

Children with Learning Difficulties Missing Out on Support

Only school-aged children with extreme needs receive services from an educational psychologist. This means the majority of children and young people with a wide range of learning difficulties are missing out on timely and needs-based access to educational psychologists in the Ministry of Education’s Learning Support Service.

In its Briefing to the Incoming Education Minister released today, the Institute of Educational and Developmental Psychology (IEDP), a subgroup of the New Zealand Psychological Society (NZPsS), calls on the new Minister to prioritise policies and programmes that ensure all learners can access the support they need.

The IEDP briefing makes several recommendations to improve the current assessment system by providing psychological support for schools. The IEDP identifies ways in which the educational psychology workforce could assist the Government to meet its policy objectives in relation to education.

Educational psychologists play an important role in working with children and young people who have an intellectual disability, learning disability, developmental disabilities (e.g. autistic spectrum), physical disabilities, sensory impairment, social, emotional or behavioural difficulties, and family or community challenges.

The institute says the educational psychology workforce needs to be replenished to meet the needs of the community.

For example, the Ministry of Education currently employs 172 full time equivalent psychologists.1

“To meet the needs of a similar population, and provide an equivalent standard of care to Scotland, we would need to double the number of psychologists employed in the public sector.2

“The demand for educational psychologists to provide service and supports in the natural learning environments of tamariki and ākonga consistently exceeds the current capacity of staff in Learning Support for the Ministry of Education,” explains NZPsS president Quentin Abraham.

The briefing adds that practical and relevant research for effective change in schools should be a priority.

“We would like the Ministry to provide an ethics committee so that educational psychologists can deliver evidence-based interventions that are relevant in the Aotearoa New Zealand context.

“This vital research would meet the government’s aims to ensure that money is not wasted on untested, potentially harmful, or ineffective and costly packages that have not been trialled in the local context.”

Psychologists focus on mental wellbeing across the lifespan and in a range of areas of people’s lives. Psychologists can also assist people to understand what drives behaviours such as problem drinking and gambling, drug abuse, criminal action or parenting issues so that strategies and policies can be developed to manage and improve these issues in the community.



1. Ministry of Education. (2016). Briefing Note: Cabinet paper – Strengthening Inclusion and Modernising Learning Support. Retrieved from

2. National Scottish Steering Group for Educational Psychologists. (2013). Workforce Planning for Educational Psychology in Scotland September 2013. Retrieved from

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