Written answers

Thursday, 4 July 2024

Department of Education and Skills

Special Educational Needs

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
Link to this: Individually | In context

293. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the number of psychologists currently employed by NEPS; the number of sanctioned psychologist posts in NEPS; the estimated full-year cost of running NEPS; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28852/24]

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

The NEPS service provides access for all schools to:

  • Psychological support in the event of a Critical Incident,
  • A Casework Service for individual children where there is a need for intensive consultation and assessment via a NEPS psychologist or through the Scheme for the Commissioning of Psychological Assessments (SCPA),
  • A school staff Support and Development Service, to build school capability to provide a comprehensive continuum of support in schools and,
  • Ongoing access to advice and support for schools.
The number of educational psychologists currently employed in NEPS stands at 228 whole time equivalents across eight regions. This is the highest number employed in NEPS since it was established. NEPS has sanction for 271 whole time equivalent posts. Since the start of the 2023/24 school year, the NEPS service has expanded to all special schools, which is hugely important given the increased support needed for children in these settings.

The budget allocation for NEPS in 2024 is 32.3m and this allocation covers both pay and non-pay costs. A further €5m has also been allocated for the Counselling in Primary Schools Pilot.

Where schools do not have an assigned psychologist due to a vacancy, a psychologist from the local NEPS team undertakes the role of advisory psychologist to respond to queries that the school may have. Such schools continue to have access to critical incident response, advisory support, and support and development training delivered by their local NEPS team. Individual assessments for students in these schools are available via the Scheme for the Commissioning of Psychological Assessments (SCPA).

In relation to the recruitment of educational psychologists, the Department has been exploring opportunities to increase the numbers of suitably qualified staff. This will strengthen the response to the educational psychological needs of children in recognised primary and post-primary schools across the country. Since January 2023, NEPS has supported bursaries for Trainee Educational Psychologists who are enrolled in the University College Dublin Professional Doctorate in Educational Psychology and Mary Immaculate College Limerick’s Professional Doctorate in Educational and Child Psychology. Those in receipt of a bursary commit to joining NEPS upon graduation. There are over 60 Trainee Educational Psychologists in receipt of a bursary who are expected to join NEPS upon graduation, with an additional 14 to be bursaried from September 2024, bringing the total to 74.

Additionally, the Public Appointments Service commenced a recruitment campaign for Educational Psychologists at the end of 2023. Interviews have taken place and panels now established. The Department is actively engaging with PAS to maximise the numbers of psychologists being recruited.

In addition to the service outlined above, NEPS is leading on the Counselling in Primary Schools Pilot. The pilot has two Strands. Strand 1 is the provision of one-to-one counselling to support a small number of children in all primary schools in counties Cavan, Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Mayo, Monaghan and Tipperary. Strand 2 of the pilot is the establishment of a new type of support to schools from Education Wellbeing Teams and the introduction of Education Wellbeing Practitioners to support clusters of schools in Cork, Carlow, Dublin 7 and Dublin 16.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
Link to this: Individually | In context

294. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the number of special needs assistants currently employed by her Department; the number of sanctioned SNA posts; the estimated full-year cost of employing these SNAs; the average cost of each SNA to her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28853/24]

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

Special needs assistant (SNA) play a central role in the successful inclusion of students with additional and significant care needs into mainstream education, special classes and special schools ensuring that these students can access education to enable them to achieve their best outcomes and reach their full potential.

In 2024, the number of SNA posts in our schools will increase by 1,216. This will mean we will have over 21,700 SNA posts available to support the care needs of students with special educational needs.

At the end of the 2023/24 school year the National Council for Special Education had allocated 21,071 SNA posts to schools. When a school has been allocated an SNA, the board of management as the employer, is responsible for filling the vacancy. The decision on whether to employ a full-time SNA to fill a full-time post, or to employ an equivalent number of part-time SNAs rests with the employer. Therefore the number of SNAs employed is not to hand.

The approximate annual cost of a new entrant SNA post is €32,740 and the average salary cost of an SNA post (including employer PRSI) is €40,860. Based on an allocation of 21,700 SNA posts, the estimated full-year cost of employing SNAs is €886,662,000.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
Link to this: Individually | In context

295. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the number of special education teachers currently employed by her Department; the number of sanctioned SET posts; the estimated full-year cost of employing these SETs; the average cost of each SET to her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28854/24]

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

I would like to thank the Deputy for the question.

Enabling children with special educational needs to receive an education is a priority for this government. It is also a key priority for my department and for the National Council for Special Education (NCSE).

The vast majority of children with special educational needs are supported to attend mainstream classes with their peers. Where children with more complex needs require additional supports, special classes and special school places are provided.

For 2024 €2.7 billion is being spent on special education, an increase of €113 million, and this is dedicated to providing supports for children with special educational needs.

This includes funding to support children with special educational needs in mainstream classes; funding for new special classes and new special school places; additional special educational teachers, special needs assistants(SNAs) and funding for the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS)

At present for the 2024/25 school year there is a total in excess of 14,600 SET teachers allocated to mainstream schools and this will increase to approx. 14,750, an increase of in excess of 51% on 2011 numbers, ahead of the start of the 2024/25 school year when the projected enrolments post process is complete.

The special education teaching (SET) allocation model provides a single unified allocation for special educational support teaching needs to each school, based on each school’s educational profile.

The average teacher’s salary costs for Primary and Post Primary teachers are outlined in the following table.

-
Primary Teacher Post Primary Teacher
€72,090 per annum €70, 140 per annum

Based on the average costs above the full year costs of employing the present number of SET teachers allocated to mainstream schools is approximately €1.046bn. This will increase to in excess of €1.053bn from the start of the 2024/25 school year when the projected enrolment posts are confirmed.

Comments

No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.