Written Answers. - Psychological Service.

Enda Kenny

Question:

1092 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of psychologists currently employed by his Department in assessing children with learning difficulties; if the difficulty with the Department of Finance has been resolved in respect of newly appointed psychologists; the number of pupils assessed by his Department's staff in 1998, 1999 and to date in 2000; his views on assertions of waiting periods for assessment of one and a half to two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20563/00]

Minister for Education and Science
(Dr. Woods): There are currently 72 psychologists, in addition to an acting director, employed by my Department in the National Educational Psychological Service agency. Of these, nine are engaged in managerial and supervisory duties in addition to fieldwork, and 20 have yet to complete their induction training. They provide a full psychological support service to schools, which includes the assessment of children with learning difficulties. Schools psychologists are also employed by the Vocational Education Committees of the City and County of Dublin and by a small number of area partnerships.
Existing psychologists in my Department, represented by IMPACT, are currently engaged in limited industrial action with a view to seeking certain guarantees relating to their terms and conditions of service in the event of the National Educational Psychological Service agency being established as a statutory body. Discussions are continuing between representatives of my Department and IMPACT to address comprehensively all of the concerns and issues involved in the transfer of staff to the new proposed body. A further meeting with the union is scheduled for Wednesday, 4 October.
The following table shows the number of assessments administered during the past two school years. Statistics in relation to assessments administered during the school year 1999/2000 are still being processed and collated.

School year

1997/98

Full psychological assessments (primary)

703

Assessments of attainments (primary)

103

Full psychological assessments (post-primary)

859

Assessments of attainments (post-primary)

245

School year

1998/99

Full psychological assessments (primary)

1,571

Assessments of attainments (primary)

778

Full psychological assessments (post-primary)

723

Assessments of attainments (post-primary)

399

The National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, currently provides a service to all second level schools and approximately a quarter of all national schools. Psychologists assist principals and teachers to develop procedures for screening, identifying and prioritising those students who are in need of an early appointment. In many cases, the psychologist discusses individual students in the light of the school's assessment results with teachers and parents and advises on appropriate remedial strategies. This means that some students can benefit from the psychologist's advice without the need for an individual psychological assessment.