All schools have access to a free psychology service which can be requested by any parent who feels their child would benefit from a consultation.
In primary schools, a psychologist is allocated to a network of schools and will travel between them, with one for every 1,600 to 2,000 pupils.
In secondary schools, the psychologist is called a Conseiller d’Orientation Psychologue, with one for every 1,400 pupils, but it is more difficult to have contact as they act as both career adviser and psychologist, with career advice being their main work.
Daniel Tramoni, vice-president of the Association Française des Psychologues de l’Education Nationale, says the role of the psychologue scolaire is to act as an intermediary between the pupils, teachers and families.
“Usually it is the teacher who suggests using the services of the psychologists but the parent can also contact us.
“We intervene in many situations including learning problems, behavioural problems, bullying, a school phobia, a handicap and if a parent feels their child needs help because of a situation at home rather than school they can still get in touch. For example there may have been a family death which the child isn’t coping with.
“Another situation might arise if you are worried that your child might be dyslexic but you don’t think the school has spotted it and you want to talk about it.
“All schools should have the school psychologist’s contact details posted up in the building so parents can get in touch. You can also talk to the teacher first.
“We see ourselves as generalists dealing with all sorts of problems.
“We will make a diagnosis and try to find the source of the problem and work with the other adults at school to find a solution.
“However we do not provide therapy and if the situation doesn’t resolve itself in a few weeks or months we will suggest going to an outside source of help such as a specialist psychologist or speech therapist, hospital etc.
“We can be the first port of call if there is a problem.”
At secondary level psychologists work both in school buildings and in Centres d’Information et d’Orientation, CIOs, which are set up in towns providing a free service open to everyone. A list can be found on the ministry at eduscol.education.fr
Parents, pupils and students can either go to the centre to gather information from the careers library or telephone and make an appointment to see a career advisor. They will make a report of the pupils’ interests and motivations, clarify the school situation, and give advice about work and further education possibilities.
The Ministry of Education employs psychologists in both primary and secondary schools and wants to boost their numbers and give more recognition by replacing a piecemeal structure with a new job description, new recruitment method and a new dedicated training programme.
Psychologists will be able to decide if they want to specialise in primary or secondary education and it is hoped the new scheme will attract new blood into a profession where, at primary level, three in four of the psychologists are aged over 50.
Mr Tramoni says that they welcome the reforms as there is more and more demand and psychologists need more and more specialist training – and at present they are overstretched.
“As handicaps of different levels are integrated into schools, the psychologists deal with all of them, from the heaviest to the lightest forms.
“We are also increasingly called on when there is a crisis which affects the whole community at school such as witnessing terrorist attacks.
“There are not enough of us. There are 3,700 posts for the whole of France but not all are filled.
“So if people do get in touch there may be a waiting list.”
A Ministry of Education spokesperson said that it was hoped that the new reforms and new training would put the emphasis back on the psychologist part of the job.
The first students will be recruited this spring for a training programme starting in autumn 2017.