Schools are likely to face longer waits to access educational psychologists after an improved pay offer was withdrawn weeks later in an “astounding U-turn”.
The Association of Educational Psychologists (AEP) said the Local Government Association last month put forward a “final” offer in an ongoing pay dispute, which included restructuring pay spines.
This would have equated to a pay increase of 5 to 9 per cent, AEP said – above the average 3 per cent already offered – and one it would have accepted.
But two weeks after AEP requested written confirmation, it claims the LGA “retracted” the offer.
Instead, a “revised, final” offer was put forward that was “substantively the same” to a proposal rejected last year.
AEP members voted in favour of strike action over last year’s offer, a rise of £1,925 that averaged 3 per cent.
Pay for EPs, who play a fundamental role in assessing the needs of children with special educational needs and disabilities, is set by councils and negotiated through the Soulbury Committee.
Dr Cath Lowther, AEP’s general secretary, condemned the move as “an astounding and deeply disappointing U-turn”.
“Inexplicably withdrawing the improved offer [will take] us back to square one.”
The union will now organise strikes in most local authorities in England and Wales in November and December.
Roger Phillips, chair of the employers’ side of the Soulbury Committee, said councils remained committed to a resolution, but “current financial challenges” made it “impossible to agree to all” demands.
The national employers, which includes the LGA, said the previous offer was withdrawn as there was disagreement on how the pay spine reform would be implemented.
A government research report on the work of EPs found them locked in a “vicious cycle” with soaring demand for education health and care plans (EHCPs) preventing early intervention work.
There are now 360 fewer full-time equivalent educational psychologists compared with 2010.
But there were 114,500 initial requests for EHCPs in 2022, up by 23 per cent on 2021.