Written Answers. - Psychological Service.

Bernard Allen

Question:

16 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Education and Science when the revised guidelines on the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments will be available; and if the limit on the number of assessments available will be withdrawn. [21725/02]

The scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, SCPA, is an interim measure aimed at providing a limited assessment service to schools that do not yet have access to the psychological service provided by the national educational psychological service, NEPS. As this is the second year of the operation of the scheme, the guidelines for the scheme have been slightly amended in the light of the experience of the first year.

Since the beginning of September 2002, 37 additional psychologists have been appointed to NEPS. Thirty of these have now completed their induction programme and NEPS management is currently assigning them to schools. Once this process has been completed, the SCPA guidelines will be circulated to all primary and post-primary schools eligible to avail of the scheme, that is, those that do not have access to the NEPS service at present. The revised guidelines will also be posted on my Department's website.

A limit on the number of assessments allowed to each school has been set in order to ensure that all eligible schools have some access to the scheme. Small schools, with less than 100 pupils, will now be allowed to commission an assessment for each 50 pupils. This arrangement will apply retrospectively and schools may also carry over any unused allocation from the school year 2001-02. NEPS management recognises that, in some cases, the limit set may not meet the needs of the school. They will therefore keep the operation of the scheme under continuous review during the current school year. As the NEPS service is expanded, fewer schools will need to avail of the scheme and it may be possible to amend the limit on the number of assessments allowed to each school.