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LCQ10: Educational psychologists

     Following is a question by the Hon Ip Kin-yuen and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (May 14):


     Some members of the education sector have pointed out that educational psychologists (EPs) play an important role in integrated education but there has been a shortfall of EPs over the years. As the ratio of EPs to students is very low, students with special educational needs (SEN students) attending mainstream schools are often unable to receive appropriate support. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether the authorities have set any standard or target on the number of EPs that mainstream schools providing integrated education should have; if they have, of such a standard or target; if not, the reasons for that;

(2) of the respective numbers of primary and secondary schools currently provided with the School-based Educational Psychology Service (SBEPS) Grant by the Education Bureau;

(3) of the respective total numbers of EPs currently employed by the Education Bureau and school sponsoring bodies to provide SBEPS to primary and secondary schools, as well as their ratios to schools and to students; of the average annual number of days of visits to schools by such EPs;

(4) of the average time taken by school-based EPs and the Educational Psychology Service Section of the Education Bureau to conduct an assessment for SEN students (from receipt of a referral to completion of the assessment report);

(5) of the numbers of places and graduates of educational psychology programmes in Hong Kong in each of the past five years;

(6) of the current number of EP supervisors (supervisors) and the average number of EPs supervised by each supervisor; of the specific duties and qualification requirements for supervisors, and the measures put in place by the authorities to monitor their work;

(7) of the average annual expenditure per school on the services of supervisors and the percentage of such expenditure in the SBEPS Grant received per school; and

(8) of the improvement measures put in place by the authorities to address the problems of (i) insufficient number of EPs, (ii) excessively short stationing time of EPs in schools and (iii) unduly long waiting time for EPs' services and time taken by them for the relevant assessments?



(1) to (4) To support public sector ordinary schools in implementing integrated education to cater for students with special educational needs (SEN), the Education Bureau (EDB) has been providing schools with additional resources, teacher training and professional support, including the School-based Educational Psychology Service (SBEPS). The SBEPS is a comprehensive and integrated educational psychology service encompassing remedial, preventive and developmental work that aims at enhancing schools' capacity to cater for students with SEN. Under the SBEPS, each educational psychologist (EP) serves six to ten schools, including both primary and secondary schools, providing support at the school system, teacher and student levels. Apart from handling individual student cases, EPs also render consultation and professional support services to teachers and parents, and offer professional advice on the school policies and practices for supporting students with SEN. EPs should visit their schools served regularly throughout the school year, and the number of such visits should not be less than 140 days per school year.

     In the 2013/14 school year, 579 public sector primary and secondary schools are receiving the SBEPS, covering about 70% of all public sector schools. For 223 primary schools and 228 secondary schools, the service is provided by selected school sponsoring bodies (SSB) awarded with EP posts. Apart from covering the remuneration of EPs, the EDB also provides the schools concerned with an SBEPS Grant on a recurrent basis for meeting the operating expenses for implementing the service, including hiring of professional supervision (see below for details), administrative support and general expenses (such as purchase of test materials and printing of training notes and resources).

     It is our target to extend the SBEPS progressively to cover all public sector primary and secondary schools by the 2016/17 school year. To achieve the target, the EDB has been creating EP posts in both the Bureau and SSBs since the 2008/09 school year. Currently, there are a total of 80 EPs providing SBEPS, of which 60 are employed by SSBs and 20 by the EDB. It is expected that 134 EPs will be in service when the SBEPS is fully implemented.

     As the number of assessment cases and the level and intensity of EP support required vary across schools, the EDB will consider different factors when assigning schools to EPs or SSBs, such as the schools' student enrolment and their number of students with SEN, as a measure to help balance the workload of individual EPs.

     The EDB has required EPs under the SBEPS to arrange with the schools concerned student assessment as soon as possible upon receipt of referrals. Normally the assessment would be completed within six months. For every referral given formal assessment, EPs will prepare, normally within three months, an EP report for the schools concerned for arrangement of appropriate support service.

(5) to (8) To tie in with the expansion of the SBEPS, the EDB has advised the University Grants Committee to increase the provision of EP training places. With effect from the 2010/11 academic year, there are 15 or 25 graduates every year. The number of intakes and graduates of the two-year full-time EP programmes (professional training) offered by two local universities for the past five years is set out below:

Year    2009/10  2010/11  2011/12  2012/13  2013/14

No. of
Intakes   15       24       14       24       15

No. of
graduates 20       15       24       14        #

#Figure not yet available

     At present, there are eight SSBs awarded with EP posts, and they have all hired EP supervisors to facilitate and advance the development of the SBEPS, and to provide regular professional supervision and support for their EPs. The number of EPs supervised by each EP supervisor will depend on the number of EPs employed by the respective SSB. As EP supervisors are engaged through hire of service, they can serve more than one SSB at the same time. Hence, providing the number of EP supervisor cannot reflect the actual service provided.

     Expenditure on EP professional supervision service accounts for about 60% of a school's SBEPS Grant. An EP supervisor is required to provide each EP with individual and group supervision amounting to about 130 hours per school year. As required by the EDB, an EP supervisor should be an experienced EP generally with six years of EP experience or more. SSBs should hold regular review and evaluation meetings with EP supervisors to safeguard the professional standard of the SBEPS. The EDB also holds regular EP network and EP supervisor meetings annually to ensure consistency in professional support and practices.

     To keep the SBEPS under on-going review and enhancement, the EDB has been carrying out monitoring and quality assurance through regular school visits and review meetings with EPs and SSBs. To ensure service quality, we also scrutinise the work plans and progress reports submitted by EPs, and conduct questionnaire surveys to schools receiving SBEPS to gauge feedback from stakeholders. Statistics for the 2012/13 school year show that about 80% of the cases referred to EPs were assessed within two months and about 90% within five months. The remaining cases with a longer waiting time for assessment were due to some specific circumstances, such as cases whose parents requested to defer the assessment and cases in which the assessment had to be held up pending the students' medical treatment.

Ends/Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Issued at HKT 12:16


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