New psychologists and other resources will be added to the province’s education system to help Island students be better learners.
Government has begun a $2 million, three-year plan to reduce the wait times for student psychological assessments from the current 3.5 years to less than one year – while increasing supports for students once they are assessed. These assessments can only be done by licensed psychologists and can take up to 40 hours to complete. They may result in a diagnosis of a learning or intellectual disability, hyperactivity or mental health disorder.
“More timely access to student psychological assessments will enable more children to learn in the way that is best for them, and give them greater opportunity to reach their full learning potential,” Education, Early Learning and Culture Minister Jordan Brown said. “While the assessments are key, it is also critically important to have the necessary resources in place to support students and their teachers once they are assessed.”
The campaign includes the following initiatives:
- two psychologist positions will be added, increasing the complement from 8.4 to 10.4;
- private practice psychologists will be contracted to reduce the wait list;
- vacant positions will be filled through advertising, social media, and visits to universities;
- recruitment incentives will cover licensing, relocation and other costs;
- four intervention support teachers will be hired to help classroom teachers implement recommendations from the increasing number of assessments; and
- two assistive-technology facilitators will be hired to determine technology options for students and help implement recommendations in all schools.
Some progress is already being made: one psychologist is being hired and others are expressing interest; private-practice psychologists have been contracted to do 68 assessments; a recruitment campaign is reaching many professionals who may be interested in relocating to the province; and positions are being posted for new support teachers and tech facilitators.
The wait list for assessments will continue to decrease over three years so that by 2020 all students will be assessed within a year. The targets set out in the plan are to:
- reduce the current wait list of 435 students to 385 by September 2018, 325 students by September 2019, and 250 students by September 2020;
- ensure that all students are assessed within a year by 2020; and
- reach a student-to-psychologist ratio of 1:1,800, similar to the Nova Scotia ratio.
“Working collaboratively with our education partners,” Minister Brown said, “we are confident that with this plan, we can reach our objectives and provide students with more timely access to assessment and early interventions that will help them be the best learners they can be.”