Written answers

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Department of Education and Skills

Psychological Assessments

Photo of Johnny MythenJohnny Mythen (Wexford, Sinn Fein)
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191. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the number of children in County Wexford awaiting an appointment with a NEPS psychologist; the number waiting less than 6, 6 to 12 and more than 12 months, respectively in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19427/20]

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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I can inform the Deputy that my Department’s National Educational Psychological Service provides educational psychological support to all primary and post-primary schools. This involves direct support in the event of a critical incident, access to national and regional support and development work to build school capacity to support students, access to a NEPS psychologist for responses to queries arising, and access to individual pupil casework via a NEPS psychologist or through the Scheme for the Commissioning of Psychological Assessments (SCPA).

NEPS does not maintain waiting lists but in common with many other psychological services and best international practice, has adopted a consultative model of service. The focus is on empowering teachers to intervene effectively with pupils whose needs range from mild to severe and transient to enduring. Psychologists use a problem solving and solution oriented consultative approach to maximize positive outcomes for these pupils. NEPS encourages schools to use a continuum based assessment and intervention process whereby each school takes responsibility for initial assessment, educational planning and remedial intervention for pupils with learning, emotional or behavioural difficulties. Teachers may consult their NEPS psychologist should they need to at this stage in the process. Only in the event of a failure to make reasonable progress, in spite of the school's best efforts in consultation with NEPS, will the psychologist become involved with an individual child for intensive intervention or assessment.

This system allows psychologists to give early attention to urgent cases and also to help many more children indirectly than could be seen individually. It also ensures that children are not referred unnecessarily for psychological intervention.

The Deputy may be aware that in 2017 my Department introduced a new model to support pupils with special educational needs. This means schools are now front-loaded with additional teachers to enable them to respond to pupil needs, rather than requiring an assessment to allow them to apply for such additional resource.  This reduces the administrative burden on schools as schools will no longer have to complete an application process annually and apply for newly enrolled pupils who require additional teaching support. Children who need support can have that support provided immediately rather than having to wait for a diagnosis.

Furthermore I can inform the Deputy that starting from a level of 173 whole-time equivalents in 2016 and following increases allowed in successive Budgets the sanctioned number for NEPS psychologist currently stands at 204 w.t.e. Some 199 of these posts are currently filled which represents the highest number of psychologists to be employed within NEPS since the inception of the service in 2000.

Indeed the Deputy may be aware that I was pleased to announce this week the provision of an additional 17 NEPS psychologist posts as part of my Department's package to assist schools in the task of reopening in the coming school year.  The filling of these and the remaining posts referred to above is being actively pursued by my Department in conjunction with the Public Appointments Service. My Department is and remains committed to the maintenance of a robust and effective educational psychological service.

I would advise that if there are concerns in relation to the educational or social and emotional development of any student these should be raised by the parents, in the first instance, with the Principal of the school he/she is attending, with a view to Principal discussing the situation with the assigned NEPS psychologist or local NEPS service.


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