THERE is a massive shortage of school psychologists to provide adequate mental health care in Tasmanian public schools, according to a peak body.
Although the Australian Psychological Society believed there was a ratio of about one psychologist to 1800 students, the Education Department yesterday said it was more like one to over 1000.
However, society president Darren Stops said this was still more than double the one-to-500 his organisation would like to see.
As of the end of last month, the department said there were 55 full- time equivalent school psychologists.
The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics report on schools said there were a total of 56,393 full-time students in the state's public system.
Mr Stops said before the 2010 election, then-premier David Bartlett promised $4 million over four years for an additional 12 psychologists, yet there remained confusion over exactly how many were employed.
Mr Stops said the society had struggled to get answers from the department in the past.
"What we do know is that there is nowhere near the one in 500 that's been recommended by the APS," he said. Mr Stops said that although the minister had said every child had access to a psychologist, it didn't take into account how long that child might have to wait to see one.
He said some students in Southern schools had to wait a month to see a psychologist.
As part of a push from the Public Education Alliance last month, the group has asked for an additional 16 psychologists to be employed.
Tasmanian State School Parents and Friends president Jenny Eddington said parents have been crying out for more psychologists for years.
She said she had heard of some students waiting several months to see a psychologist depending on how remote they were.
Ms Eddington said she hoped there was a move to more proactive work within schools to look at issues before they arise, rather than just continue a reactive policy.
Department deputy secretary Liz Banks said four psychologists were employed in 2011 due to extra funding in the 2011-12 budget.
She said the department recognised the value of school psychologists, yet she could not comment on whether there would be funding for more in the May budget.