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AEP Members vote for industrial action in dispute over pay and workforce crisis


Members of the Association of Educational Psychologists (AEP) in England and Wales have voted decisively in favour of taking industrial action

The Unions’ Executive recommended that members should vote 'Yes' to action, saying that the pay offer, amounting to an average of a 3% pay rise for many educational psychologists, amounts to a ‘real terms cut’ at a time when inflation is running at 11.4%. The Union says that the real terms decline in pay and conditions has led to a recruitment and retention crisis, causing unmanageable workloads and resulting in  long wait times for support for children, young people and families who need it.

All members working for local authorities paid on Soulbury scales in England and Wales were sent a postal ballot. Members in 86.6% per cent of those local authorities met the participation threshold for the ballot and voted in favour of industrial action - with 33 authorities voting 100% in favour of taking action. 

The Union’s Executive will meet later today to plan action based on the results, However, the employers side have today sent a revised and improved pay offer, which the AEP and its members will now consider before deciding next steps. 

Statement from Dr Cath Lowther, General Secretary of AEP:
Our members have said loud and clear that our children deserve to see an educational psychologist when they need to. They have turned out in significant numbers to vote yes to industrial action and to save local authority educational psychology services.

It is clear that our campaign and the strength of feeling from our members, which has been reflected in the strike ballot, has been heard by the employers and we welcome the revised pay offer which we have just received.  We will consider this offer before deciding on our next steps.

Every year, tens of thousands of children and young people and their families are helped by an educational psychologist (EP).  Despite the vital services and support provided by EPs, local authorities have not invested in the profession and now face widespread recruitment and retention problems. The resulting rise in EP workloads means that children and young people are waiting far too long to be seen by an EP – or worse, don’t get to see an EP at all. We need local authorities to stem the workforce exodus and make sure our children have access to the specialist support that EPs offer, when they need it”

Further Information

  1. The ballot is on a disaggregated council by council basis.  The AEP balloted members in 157 local authorities, of which 136 voted in favour of industrial action and met the participation threshold.  
  2. The results for each local authority are detailed at the end of this release / Please follow this link for all participating authorities?
  3. The Association of Educational Psychologists (AEP) is the trade union and professional body for educational psychologists in the UK. Its remit is to support the rights and effective working practices of its members, to promote the educational psychology profession and to ensure the wellbeing of children and young people.
  4. Educational Psychologists are in a pay dispute with employers, local authorities, represented by the Soulbury Committee, which is administered by the Local Government Association.    After a decade in which real terms pay for Educational Psychologists has fallen, this year we are asking for a pay rise to fairly remunerate our members and help with recruitment and retention. The AEP, along with other Soulbury unions (the NEU and Prospect) submitted a claim for at least 9% on all pay points. 
  5. The employers’ side have made what they say is a ‘final offer’ of £1,925.   This works out at between 2-5%, depending on EPs current pay, and on average is around a 3% offer.  This represents a real terms cut in pay at a time when inflation is around 10%.  
  6. The Government’s new report on the Educational Psychology workforce is available here: Educational psychology services: workforce insights and school perspectives on impact (   Key points are:
    • 88% of local authorities reporting difficulties recruiting Educational Psychologists, with 48% citing pay as a key reason.
    • A third of local authorities reporting difficulties with retention of Educational Psychologists
    • 69% of local authorities ‘not confident’ they will be able to meet the demand for educational psychologist services if there is no change in funding, training and service delivery models.
    • 96% of those local authorities reporting recruitment and/or retention issues stated that these difficulties affected outcomes for children and young people requiring support
    • There has been a 77.3% increase in demand for an Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) statutory assessment from an Educational Psychologist.  The number of requests for an assessment was 64,555 in 2017.  This rose to 114,457 in 2022. 
  7. There is an acute shortage of educational psychologists in many local authority areas.  This is at a time of rising demand.   There are too many Educational Psychologists leaving the local authority workforce, either leaving the profession or moving to locum or private work, and not enough being trained and entering the profession.
  8. The clearest indication of the increase in workload is around SEND.  The number of Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP), each of which requires statutory advice from an educational psychologist.   The latest statistics show that there has been an increase in the percentage of pupils with EHCPs from 2.8% in 2016/17 to 4.3% in 2022/23, corresponding to an increase in the number of pupils with an EHCPs (or SEN statements prior to the SEND reform) by 60.7%, (242,184 to 389,171).  Similarly, the number of initial requests for an EHCP rose: from 64,555 to 114,457 during 2017 to 2022, representing an overall increase of 77.3% per cent.
  9. In a recent survey of AEP members, 73% of those currently working as local authority employed EPs are considering leaving or reducing their hours to work privately, in the context of the rising cost of living and workload challenges.



ballot box




Key Ballot Results


Percentage of members voting in favour of action: 86%


Turnout rate (overall) : 70%

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