NBU/NUPGE has brought this issue forward to the government on numerous occasions. It's not difficult to understand, if people are drastically overworked and underpaid, attracting and retaining skilled professionals will be difficult.
Fredericton (29 March 2018) — Sixty-six kilometres.
If a person wishing to work as a school psychologist drove this distance beginning in Moncton and stopping in Amherst, Nova Scotia, the difference in their profession would be immense.
Recruitment and retention major problem across the province
On the New Brunswick side, the caseload is anywhere from 2 to 7 times higher than the ratio recommended by the National Association of School Psychologists. The pay could be anywhere from $10,000 to 25,000 higher just from that short drive to the next province.
It's no wonder our province struggles to recruit and retain school psychologists, a group represented by the New Brunswick Union (NBU/NUPGE). While this issue has recently received some much needed attention in the media, it's not new information to the current or previous political administrations.
NBU/NUPGE has brought this issue forward to government on numerous occasions. It's not difficult to understand, if people are drastically overworked and underpaid, attracting and retaining skilled professionals will be difficult.
Students with mental health issues face long wait times
The ripple effect from this issue is very problematic. Students cannot access important mental health service in a prompt manner as the demands far outweigh the school psychologists available. This can lead to increased mental health issues for the student, including anxiety and stress for all involved including parents, teachers, administrators and psychologists.
So what can be done to begin to fix this situation? In terms of pay, New Brunswick needs to be competitive with surrounding provinces, as well as with other psychologists working in the public sector. If all is equal or close, then it's more likely people would choose to stay and work rather than uproot their lives and families to another province.
NBU/NUPGE makes suggestion to improve conditions for school pyschologists
Another way to make the job more attractive is to have school psychologists — who are employed by school districts — work the same schedules as teachers, including the summer break.
Since they are employed by the district, there should be little to no interference from Horizon or Vitalité in terms of setting priorities for psychologists. We need to ensure school psychologists have the autonomy to do what's best for students in terms of their education and well-being.
NB government needs to back up promises with action
When the most recent provincial budget was unveiled, Cathy Rogers, Finance Minister, announced, "government will invest $2.5 million to support improved mental health outcomes in the province."
The New Brunswick government has an opportunity to do just that when it comes to school psychologists. Politicians, time and again, say they prioritize education and health care. It's time to back up those words with actions and take immediate measures to improve mental health in our schools.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE