Written answers

Wednesday, 3 July 2024

Department of Education and Skills

Special Educational Needs

Photo of Denis NaughtenDenis Naughten (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

98. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the areas in which occupational therapy services have been piloted in schools; if those pilots have been evaluated; her plans to extend the pilot to schools in other areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28514/24]

Photo of Hildegarde NaughtonHildegarde Naughton (Galway West, Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

On 20 June last and in conjunction with Minister Foley, I announced the establishment of the Educational Therapy Support Service, a nationally available service designed to build the capacity of teachers (and other school personnel as relevant) to provide as effectively as possible for the needs of students. This will mean that therapists will work in classrooms with teachers to provide, for example, language programmes which have been co-designed by teachers and speech and language therapists.

The overarching purpose of the ETSS will be to improve learning outcomes for students, ensure teachers are better equipped to support all students and reduce the demand for additional resources in schools including applications for additional SNAs.

The expansion of therapy services within the NCSE is expected to build on the achievements and impacts of the School Inclusion Model (SIM) pilot programme. SIM provided speech and language and occupational therapists with an opportunity to systematically build the capacity of school communities to meet the needs of students. Data collected in SIM Pilot Schools in 2022 reported positive outcomes in the areas of teaching confidence, changes to practice, the learning environment and student educational outcomes. In line with international educational research, it is anticipated that positive intervention outcomes reported in the areas of academic achievement and independence will continue to have long term positive impact on other educational outcomes including student well-being, attendance, and end of school outcomes.

ETSS therapists will work with teachers in schools to collaboratively design and deliver educationally relevant interventions. They will also work in partnership with school communities, NCSE colleagues and where appropriate NEPS and HSE professionals to promote the participation and inclusion of all students and particularly those with special education needs across all levels of a multi-tiered system of support, providing individualised/intensive educational support for students with the greatest level of need. The NCSE will maintain oversight of clinical governance and professional development requirements of all therapists.

The next steps in this expansion process will include a robust recruitment process within the NCSE to attract persons with the relevant skills and qualifications.

The NCSE intends to be operationally ready to deliver therapy services in the Eastern and Western regions for the commencement of the school year in September, moving to full implementation of all posts by October 2024. In terms of practical steps, Limerick has been identified as the most suitable hub for the Western region and sourcing of suitable office accommodation has already commenced. The Western region includes Kerry, Clare, Limerick, Galway, Mayo and Roscommon. Dublin will be the hub for the Eastern region and includes the greater Dublin area.


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.