Written answers

Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Department of Education and Skills

Special Educational Needs

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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70. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated full-year cost of rolling out the in-school and early years therapy support demonstration pilot project in each school across Ireland. [46109/22]

Photo of Josepha MadiganJosepha Madigan (Dublin Rathdown, Fine Gael)
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Budget 2019 allocated €4.75 million for the implementation of the recommendations of the Comprehensive Review of the Special Needs Assistant Scheme. The School Inclusion Model (SIM) is based on policy advice from the National Council for Special Education, based on the principle of providing the right support at the right time, delivered by a range of personnel with relevant qualifications and skill-sets. Its purpose is to help students achieve better outcomes. Independent evaluation is a central part of the project and the outcome will inform future policy on the potential to extend SIM to other schools.

The project includes a number of elements:

- Availability of therapists (speech and language, occupational) to schools to build teacher capacity

- Allocation of SNAs on a front-loaded basis

- Additional professional supports for the school including psychology, behavioural and professional development

- Training of SNAs

In February 2019, the Government approved the trialling of the Model for the 2019/20 school year. Initially designed as a one year pilot involving up to 75 participating schools in the CHO 7 region, it was interrupted by Covid-19 with the closure of schools and the diversion of HSE therapists from the project to Covid related work. It was then extended to the 2020/21 school year which was also interrupted by Covid. Progress has been made on aspects of the Model but much remains to be done in terms of in-school implementation and evaluation. The Pilot recommenced in November 2021 in CHO7.

There are a number of challenges and barriers to continuing the roll-out of SIM in CH07 and expanding SIM to other areas at this time. The single biggest challenge is the availability of therapists. While the Department’s initial intention was to expand SIM to other areas, pressures relating to workforce supply (therapists and psychologists) have resulted in SIM being limited to one CHO area. This will remain in 2023.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) are engaging with CORU (regulatory body over therapists) to determine how the current registration process can be expedited.The HSE are engaging with the Department of Health, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth(DCEDIY) and Dept. of Higher Education to explore how the Higher Education Institutes can increase third level capacity, with a focus on an initiative to commence in September 2023.

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