Written answers

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Department of Education and Skills

Disability Services

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, Independents 4 Change)
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132. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the average waiting time for accessing an autism behaviour therapist (details supplied); and if she will take steps to resolve the long waiting times for the new school year in September 2022.; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23585/22]

Photo of Josepha MadiganJosepha Madigan (Dublin Rathdown, Fine Gael)
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In March 2018, NCSE published the Comprehensive Review of the Special Needs Assistant Scheme following a request from the Minister for Education and Skills. Among other things, the policy advice recommended that:

- “NCSE establishes ten fully staffed regional support teams to build school and teacher capacity through continuing professional development (CPD) programmes and where appropriate, in-school support”;

- “A broader range of support options is made available as part of whole-school, targeted-school and intensive-school support, which encompasses and enhances the existing extensive support options already in place in schools” and that

- “... behaviour practitioners are available (as part of the NCSE regional support service) to provide advice and guidance to schools”.

Following this advice, in March 2019 the Minister announced a trial of a new School Inclusion Model (SIM) to provide the right supports at the right time to students with additional needs.

NCSE employs a number of specialist roles to support schools and build teacher capacity in the areas of autism and behaviour. These roles include autism advisors and behaviour advisors, who are assigned across regional support teams to provide advice and support to schools.

For schools located in South Dublin, Kildare and West Wicklow, as part of the SIM pilot project NCSE provides additional support to schools through four behaviour practitioners and additional speech and language therapists and occupational therapists. There are 660 schools in this area, which includes schools in the Dublin 12 area.

The supports provided by these therapists and practitioners aim to build school and teacher capacity to include all students, including students with special educational needs, by facilitating them to access the curriculum and to have positive and inclusive school experiences.

The role of the NCSE Behaviour Practitioners in particular is to enable, support and promote the full inclusion, participation and well-being of all students in school and community activities by establishing and enhancing socially significant behaviours.

This work is focussed on assisting schools to:

- promote universal positive behaviour approaches,

- prevent and plan for behaviours that impact learning and prevent and

- plan and respond to behaviours of concern using The NCSE Behaviour Support Framework.

Schools within the SIM pilot initially access Behaviour Practitioner support by attending one of NCSE’s teacher professional learning seminars. Teachers attending these seminars have access to a follow-on workshop and may request further in school support in line with the seminar and workshop content.

Over the course of 2021, the Behaviour Practitioners delivered 18 courses to 316 teachers. The courses aimed to build teacher capacity to support their students in areas such as Practical Strategies for Behaviour in the Classroom; Autism and Promoting Positive Behaviour and Pathways to Prevention.

The second way schools and teachers can access in-school support is making a request through the NCSE in-school support portal at ncse.ie/in-school-support.

In 2021 the NCSE received 1,951 requests for in school support of which 806 related to autism and 730 related to behaviour. In 2022 to date, the NCSE received 927 requests for in school support of which 364 related to autism and 359 related to behaviour.

In School Support requests are responded to as follows:

-Initially an in school support request is received by the local Team Manager (TM) who reviews the request and follows up with the school if additional information is required

-TM assigns the request to an appropriate Advisor based on the nature of the request eg, Autism, Behaviour, SET etc

-Advisor contacts the school and scopes out the nature of the response to the schools request with the Principal, SENCO etc.

-The nature of the response could include whole school staff CPD, in classroom support with individual teacher / small group of teachers

-The support can be delivered in person or online as required

-Where required the Advisor may arrange a number of engagements with the school to meet their request

-Advisors may also recommend some of NCSE seminars where appropriate to need the schools request.

Finally, the NCSE also has also developed resources for teachers to support positive behaviour in school and resources for parents of primary aged children at home and post primary aged young people. Other useful resources such as videos for parents can be accessed through the NCSE’s YouTube channel.

The NCSE does not employ autism behaviour therapists, but through its regional teams the NCSE has advisors (seconded teachers) with specialisms in behaviour and autism. Schools may also access the advisor support service through the same system ncse.ie/in-school-support

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