Questions raised about school psychologist shortage in P.E.I.

Teresa Wright twright@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on November 26, 2013
Education Minister Alan McIsaac
Guardian photo by Heather Taweel

The shortfall of psychologists in P.E.I. schools is due to a shortage of these health professionals across the region, says Education Minister Alan McIsaac.

The issue was raised in the P.E.I. legislature this afternoon when Opposition MLA James Aylward questioned McIsaac on what he is doing to address this situation.

He pointed out half of the psychologists working for the English Language School Board went on leave at the beginning of the school year, leaving only five psychologists to meet the needs of over 13,000 students.

“This has contributed to anywhere from a two-to-three year wait list for a child in our education system to have an assessment done,” Aylward said.

“Why have you created this crisis in our school system?”

McIsaac said this is an issue facing all Atlantic provinces, as there is a shortage of psychologists across the region. This has led to shortfalls and extended waiting times not only in education, but also in mental health and justice.

“I don’t think we need the scare tactics (Aylward) is putting forward, we are working with every child at the present time with the staff we have.”

McIsaac said the department is trying to fill the current vacancies with term positions and is working hard to recruit more psychologists. In the meantime, the school board is utilizing school counsellors to help any child who needs additional support.

But Aylward said he does not believes neither the minister nor the department are doing enough to try to bring more psychologists to Prince Edward Island and address the long waiting times for children who need psychological assessments.

“You have a responsibility to ensure Island students have access to the supports they need,” he said.

“Your government has no problem finding money for big parties, liquor stores, breweries, gambling and then shortchanges our Island students.”

twright@theguardian.pe.ca

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