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The Australian Education Union (AEU) has urged the ACT Government increase the number of psychologists in Canberra schools.

In an open letter released by the union and addressed to Chief Minister Andrew Barr, the union urges the Government to take immediate action to help students.

A report into the way children with “complex needs and challenging behaviours” were accommodated in Canberra’s school system was released last year, in response to a 10-year-old boy with autism being placed in a cage at a Canberra primary school.

One of the recommendations of the report was to increase the number of school psychologists by 34 to support teaching staff.

The AEU ACT branch secretary Glenn Fowler has told the ABC that the ACT Government, despite publicly agreeing to the report’s recommendations, has made no attempt to implement the changes.

“This is an investment that will pay dividends right across the Canberra community and just paying lip service won’t make a difference for students with disabilities and mental health needs,” he told the ABC.

A ratio of one psychologist for every 500 students has been recommended for implementation by the education and social welfare bodies involved.

The target aligns with findings from the New South Wales Coroner and Australian Psychologists and Counsellors in Schools Association.

“The argument is over. The 1:500 ratio has been recommended by the very professionals that are doing the work,” Mr Fowler said.

The letter also urged the Government to “provide adequate funds and effective services to meet the social and emotional needs of ACT students not currently attaining minimum educational standards”.

“There are simply not enough qualified school psychologists employed in schools to provide children and young people in the ACT the care they deserve,” the letter reads.  “At the moment, there are schools in the ACT with nearly 1,000 adolescents where the school psychologist is part-time.

“Most school psychologists are responsible for students across two, three or even four schools.”

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  • It seems that we never have enough money for schools but plenty for the military. How are we suppose to build a solid, prosperous and healthy society if we don’t start at the very beginning with our children. Of course there should be more professional help in schools for children. There is a need of this and a lot more should be given to education and helping towards given all children a better life.
    I have friends who have children with various ranges of special needs and they struggle daily trying to get the help that their children need. Its heartbreaking to see these children and their families suffer. Its time that the government (who every is in power) start to realise that its our children who should matter the most to society, for without them there is no future.

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  • This is important – there are a range of professionals that can work with children and teachers in schools to improve outcomes for all students. It is important that they are qualified, chaplains serve an important role but they are not equipped to provide professional support nor are they adequately supervised.

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  • The 1:500 is ridiculous. School psychologists and counsellors are so overworked and pressured to diagnose children for funding yet don’t have the time then to be able to work with the kids.
    Also I’m not sure why the requirement to work in schools is still a psychology qualification when there are a number of other disciplines that offer wonderful mental health work eg Accredited Mental health Social Workers and Occupational therapists.

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  • There is a definite need for physcologists or school counsellers as they are sometimes called in all States and Territories. There should also be some trained teacher’s aides to assist children with disabilties using different levels and techniques in line with a child’s development and ability. Some have behavioural issues caused by their disabilities that need to be taken into consideration, and also take into consideration of other pupils in the classroom. Some schools have other rooms set aside for some lessons to cope with different levels of learning. It is too upsetting for some who know they can’t keep up with the others and can’t even understand the “big” words that the other children and their teacher use. I know a lady who assists with special needs children and finds it very rewarding but she goes home abosolutely exhausted some days. Physically she is very fit. Besides weekend sport she has a dog she walks once a day.

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  • not sure what it is but i never used to hear issues about schools. Now lack of funding seems to be affecting everything and our children, our future! are getting ripped off.

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  • it is a shame that there is such a need for this.

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  • There can never be enough professionals to support our kids.


    • Early intervention makes all the difference to children.

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  • All schools can benefit from employing allied health workers from across all fields. Teachers have a heavy load and need the support of allied health professionals in ensuring the best outcomes for students.

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  • Something certainly needs to be done. Should have been done a long time ago

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  • I think all the support the kids get the better.

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  • This would seem long overdue – hope it happens soon.

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  • I think most Australian schools could do with more investment in allied health workers, like speech pathologists, psychologists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, dieticians and dental health care workers. We are the lucky country but I think we are failing some of our kids in schools, which is why this article would come to light.

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