There is a School Psychologist position at every ACT public school. School psychologists are part of the Directorate’s multidisciplinary approach to supporting student inclusion, academic success, psychological health and social emotional wellbeing. They work within schools and are part of the School’s Student Wellbeing Team.
School Psychologists are registered health professionals with the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency. To work with students, they need the informed consent of parents/carers and/or individual students. The School Psychologist can help parents, carers and students understand the range of services that can be offered, how long these may take, and how the service will be delivered. The type of service depends on the reason for the referral and the outcome of support for the student.
The School Psychologist can provide services that may include:
School Psychologists work with school staff, parents/carers and/or the student to collect information about the presenting concern. This can include observations, formal testing and reviewing other records. A report may be written from these assessments. Recommendations for support will generally be shared with key school staff. At times these assessments will support a student’s access to other services within Education (e.g. Inclusion support) and have deadlines for completion.
Support and Intervention
School Psychologists can work directly with the student or the family. This type of support might be provided individually or in a group setting. Sharing information for how the student can be supported at school is often an important feature of this work.
School Psychologists provide advice and information to teachers and parents/carers on ways to support students at school and home. This can include suggesting relevant services and supports. They might also get involved to help share and explain recommendations by other professionals both internal and external.
School psychologists may also work with members of the student services team (school youth health nurse, school social worker, youth worker); collaborate with community providers to coordinate referrals or services for students; and work with the school executive team on school-wide practices and procedures.
Students presenting with the greatest risk factors (risk to self or others) are prioritised. All school psychologists have the required training in undertaking risk assessments that help establish safety for the student and others.
Families with mental health or wellbeing concerns should speak to their school, as the pathway for accessing support differs in different schools. In primary settings a student’s class teacher is a good person to first discuss any concerns. In high school, this may be a year coordinator or others within the Student Wellbeing Team. Colleges and many High Schools will have student services or wellbeing hubs where students can seek and access a range of support services themselves. School Psychologists also continue to be available via telehealth appointments. These sessions were established during the 2021 pandemic lockdown, and will continue through at least Term 1, 2022.
The ACT Government’s 2016 election commitment of 20 additional psychology positions over four years has been met with four temporary positions permanently established in 2020. The additional funding for psychologists in schools gave an opportunity to establish the Psychology Assessment and Early Intervention teams as recommended from the 2018 review of the service. The centralised service delivery from these teams helps provide continuity of service to schools when there is a temporary vacancy, develop specialisation across the service and engage in group intervention for secondary schools.
In 2021, 81.6 full time equivalent (FTE) psychologists support students in ACT public schools, including 62.0 FTE working directly in schools.
Every three years, the amount of time allocated to each school and central teams is updated. Calculations using data about the needs of the student population and projected enrolment numbers inform how the resources across the Directorate are distributed. School psychologists are placed in schools and the central teams by matching the school or team allocated time with the school psychologist’s availability, preference, experience and suitability to a school setting.
This article appeared in ParentACTion Magazine, Term 1, 2022.