Support for children aged 0-25 with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

Frequently Asked Questions about statutory educational psychologist (EP) assessments

We recognise that an area of continued concern is the length of time that children and young people wait for assessments from educational psychologists when they are undergoing an education, health, and care needs assessment (EHCNA). We share your concerns regarding the delays and recognise that they are not acceptable. 


We are now pleased to report that the service is working in real time with all new assessments and all outstanding assessments allocated to an Educational PsychologistEducational PsychologistEducational Psychologists use psychology to support the development, learning and behaviour of children and young people.They work in collaboration with parents and carers, teachers and other professionals.Psychology helps us understand:.

To ensure ongoing timeliness of delivery, the service has looked to undertake various approaches to improve and maintain this position. This includes: maintaining links with Southampton University, a programme which supports training, placements and recruitment; engaging with our existing locums to increase capacity and coordinating the onboarding of more Locums who could carry out face to face assessments. Further, we have acknowledged the benefit of onboarding assistant educational psychologists to support the statutory offer as an interim measure, in addition to pausing traded services to divert all attention to these families and settings.

We expect all the recently allocated children to have been assessed with reports made accessible to the SEND service by the end of May.

We appreciate your continued patience during this time and hope you will join us in recognising this is a positive step forward.

Please find our answers to some frequently asked questions below.

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Q1: Why is there a delay in an educational psychologist (EP) carrying out an assessment as part of my child’s education, health, and care needs assessment (EHCNA)?  

We share your concerns regarding the delays and recognise that they are not acceptable.  Both nationally and locally requests for EHC needs assessments have risen significantly in recent years and most councils are reporting further increases this year.  This is causing additional pressure on local authority educational psychology (EP) services.  Nationally, councils are reporting that there are insufficient EPs to meet this demand and our service has vacancies for EPs that we have been unable to fill.

The good news is that by taking the actions outlined in response to Question 2, in the last 6 months we have been able to reduce the numbers of older cases waiting to be allocated, from over 300 to under 30, and we are expecting these to be allocated by mid April.

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Q2: What is being done about the delays?

1  We are continuing to seek to recruit EPs to our service. To help with this we have strong links with Southampton University – providing some of their training and providing placements and supervision for Trainee EPs. 

2  We are engaging the services of locum educational psychologists (private EPs who will undertake pieces of work for local authorities) and are continuing to use locum agencies to increase our capacity using locum EPs. Although experienced, high quality locum EPs are also in high demand and have limited availability.

 3  We have recently recruited assistant educational psychologists (AEPs) to support our EPs with assessments and to increase capacity. All our AEPs have either a primary and/or master’s level degree in psychology, with related experience with children and young people in educational settings and/or similar.  All EHC needs assessments are led by qualified EPs.  

4  BCP council has also commissioned independent educational psychology services for a limited period. This service is to support the completion of the backlog of assessments. This is a positive step to increase our capacity and meet the needs of our children and young people in a timelier manner. This service has been in addition to the steps outlined above.  Several cases have been allocated to this service and we are starting to see these cases completed. Unfortunately, this independent EP service have also struggled to onboard sufficient locum EPs and have not been able to complete the number of assessments they anticipated. Their difficulty with capacity and delays has impacted our ability to predict timescales.  We have recently been reassured that this service now has more locum EPs in place and will be completing an increasing number of assessments at a quicker pace going forwards. There is daily monitoring of progress on the timeliness of EHC needs assessments by our senior leadership team. 

5  In order to further improve our capacity to compete EHC needs assessments since 22 January 2024, we have re-directed local authority educational psychologists from traded work with schools to solely providing Psychological advice for Education Health and Care Needs Assessments (EHC advice). Although this has been a difficult decision because we know this negatively impacts upon early intervention work for children within schools, it will help to reduce the EHC needs EP assessment delays. 

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Q3: Why have other children be seen before mine, even though the assessments were agreed later?

In addition to the new EP capacity that we have working on the backlog of cases, we are also trying to increase the number of EHC needs assessments completed within statutory timeframes. This will mean that on occasions newly agreed assessments, will occur before those who have been waiting for some time. In effect, we will be eliminating delays from both ends, and we hope to have achieved this by mid spring.

We continue to ask local authority and locum EPs to complete their assessments and reports within 6 weeks of allocation unless there are exceptional circumstances (for example illness).  For settings, families, children and young people, there should be no difference to having an assessment from the independent EP service to having one of our usual locums carry out the assessment. We have been very clear about our standards and expectations, including the need for interactive work whether in person or virtual (please see Q6).

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Q4: If there is a private EP report can this be used? 

If there is a recent report (up to a year) from a private or local authority EP that remains current, and contains the necessary information, including SMART outcomes and reasonable provision, that follows the BCP Graduated Response - then the case officer can raise this with a senior EP who will read and consider whether the report can be used without needing to allocate the case to an EP. It will then be sent to the Statutory SEND team for use in drafting the Summary of Assessment.  If more information is required, then it will be allocated to an EP who will complete their assessment and report within 6 weeks.  On occasions an EP can attend a co-production meeting with the case officer, setting and family to support in writing outcomes and provision.  

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Q5: If I can find a private EP to do the assessment will the local authority pay for it?

By funding a private EP assessment, the local authority is in fact asking that private EP to undertake work on our behalf. This is what we do with the private EPs we use as locums. As the private EPs would be working on our behalf (and as we do for locums), we would need to go through a rigorous recruitment process.

This includes: 

  • checking CVs, qualifications, HCPC registration, references, Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks and insurance checks  
  • carrying out an interview, discussing expectations around format and the use of interactive assessment, and arranging payment methods 
  • quality assuring the completed report and checking that it is in accordance with the SEND Code of Practice and BCP Graduated Response  

As this process takes considerable time, unless locum EPs are able to commit to some ongoing work, their use reduces, rather than increases, our capacity. The local authority therefore does not pay for psychological advice from private EPs sourced by parents or carers.

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Q6: I have been told that the assessment may be virtual. How would this work?

Some of the locum EPs that we use live some distance away and are not able to attend in person. However, a part of our recruitment process is to check that our locum EPs are able to carry out robust, interactive virtual assessments that enable us to gain a clear view of your child’s strengths and needs. The locum EPs will read all the information on file carefully and have virtual meetings with yourselves and setting staff (usually using an interactive platform such as ‘Teams’ or ‘Zoom’). How they engage with and assess each child or young person will depend upon what is best for the child or young person themselves, following the advice of those who know them best. We do this in close liaison with the setting and family and it might include all sorts of things such as:   

  • observation of a planned activity in the nursery or setting via a laptop 
  • a range of interactive assessments using interactive software  
  • the child or young person supported by a familiar adult, carrying out tasks and assessments guided by the EP  
  • the completion of questionnaires  
  • personal construct drawing and talking activities   
  • guided dynamic or standardised assessment 
  • card sorting activities 

EPs are trained to put children and young people at ease and to help them to feel relaxed and secure. Feedback from parents, carers and settings about the quality of these assessments has been very positive.  We recently had the following feedback from parents who had been concerned about having a remote assessment:  

“Initially I was concerned about the meeting being online but I think my daughter engaged more than if we had met in person.”

“The EP was the most wonderful person, she listened intently to all the information I gave her and worded things in a way that was easy for me to understand and answer. She explained some of my son’s difficulties and how they impact his learning, she actually taught me things while gathering all the information. I felt validated and listened to at all times. Such a supportive and kind person.” 

Due to limited capacity, requests for in person assessments may lead to a longer waiting time for an assessment.

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Q7: Are you able to tell me when my child will be seen?

Unfortunately, we are not able to tell you when your child’s assessment will be carried out due to a number of factors such as:  

  • locum availability 
  • staffing capacity  
  • the number of cases open to individual EPs 
  • the impact of school holidays  

However, once your child has been allocated an EP, they will aim to complete their assessment reports within six weeks.  We ask them to contact you and/or your child’s school within a week of allocation to make assessment arrangements. 

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Q8: Are any children or young people prioritised?

It is important for all children and young people who have had an education, health and needs assessment agreed, that this happens as soon as possible to support appropriate planning, provision and next steps and we are very aware of the detrimental impact of delays.  

In line with our statutory duty to promote the education of Looked After Children (LAC)* and previously looked after children, (Statutory guidance for local authorities February 2018) we have committed to assessing all looked after children within statutory timeframes.

From those cases within the backlog of assessments, we are allocating those waiting longest first, with some exceptions being made for our most vulnerable children and young people. These include those we are made aware of who are:

  • Permanently excluded children and young people
  • Early Years children (N2s) who will be moving into a school age setting this coming year and may need a specialist placement
  • Children and young people who are categorised as Children in Need (CIN)
  • Have moved into the area and do not have an educational setting

* A child or young person who has been in the care of their local authority for more than 24 hours is known as a looked after child. Looked after children are also often referred to as children in care, a term which many children and young people prefer.

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Q9: How do I find out more about the educational psychology service?

For more information about the BCP Educational Psychology service, who we are, how we work, and about our core values, please follow this link: BCP Educational Psychology Service (EPS)  

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