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‘There is no two ways about it’ : New Brunswick teachers push for more psychologists in schools

Tracy LaPointe poses with her nine-year-old daughter Anaya. Shelley Steeves/Global News

The new head of the New Brunswick Teachers’ Association is calling on the province’s Department of Education to hire more psychologists to work in the province’s schools.

According to George Daley, the new President of the New Brunswick Teachers’ Association, the number of psychologists currently serving students falls far below what is recommended by the Canadian Psychological Association.

“We definitely need more in the system. There is no two ways about it,” said Daley

Daley says there has been a shortage of psychologists working in the school system for the last ten years.

Tracy LaPointe, a mother in Riverview, N.B., says she tried for three years to get a psychological assessment through the public school system for her nine-year-old daughter Anaya.

“When we asked through the school they said it would take upwards of to grade 5 or 6 to have her seen,” said LaPointe.

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READ MORE: Nova Scotia takes aim to reduce wait times for students needing assessments

According to the Canadian Psychological Association, there should be a minimum of one psychologist for every 1000 students. Daley said that same ratio was recommended to the province in the 2006 MacKay Report. Daley believes that the province is nowhere near being on target.

“We’ve got some students who need academic testing that are on long wait lists but we also have students who need psychological support that are not getting the depth of it or the amount of it that they need,” he said.

In the Anglophone East School District, there are currently more than 15,000 students and only six positions available for psychologists — less than half the recommended number.

Stephanie Patterson, a communications officer for the school district says four of those positions are still vacant.

“We can’t really speculate on why the positions aren’t filled. There are discrepancies in the pay scales in other government departments and differences in the work year/schedule in other provinces etc. that may be a contributing factor,” wrote Patterson in an email.

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Meanwhile, in an effort to eliminate wait times for students, the school district is sending students who need assessments to private psychologists.

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Patterson says assessments typically cost anywhere from $1,500 to $2,500, with the district footing the bill.

Daley says that the private assessments are a step in the right direction but he is still urging the department of education to hire more school psychologists to support students who are struggling.

There are at least three other psychologist positions vacant in other school districts across the province that administrators are struggling to fill.

Daley believes that heavy workload and salary may be creating a challenge for districts to recruit for the positions.

He plans to meet with psychologists and the province in the coming weeks to address the issues and he hopes to develop a comprehensive mental health program for students and to increase the availability of psychologists in the school system.

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