As the Deputy will be aware all primary and post-primary schools have access to psychological assessments either directly through the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) or through the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA). Schools that do not currently have NEPS psychologists assigned to them may avail of the SCPA, whereby the school can have an assessment carried out by a member of the panel of private psychologists approved by NEPS, and NEPS will pay the psychologist the fees for this assessment directly. It is assumed that by individual services the Deputy is referring to intervention with individual pupils. In this regard my Departments NEPS service processed payment under the SCPA in the order of 3,470 (2005), 4,246 (2006) and 4,561 (2007) in the calendar years in question.
In common with many other psychological services and best international practice, NEPS encourages a staged assessment process, whereby each school takes responsibility for initial assessment, educational planning and remedial intervention, in consultation with their assigned NEPS psychologist. Only if there is a failure to make reasonable progress in spite of the school's best efforts, will a child be referred for individual psychological assessment. This system allows the psychologists to give early attention to urgent cases and also to help many more children indirectly than could be seen individually. It also ensures that children are not referred unnecessarily for psychological intervention.
NEPS psychologists dealt with referrals in respect of specific named pupils in the relevant calendar years, including the processing of applications under the Reasonable Accommodation for Certificate Examinations (RACE) scheme on behalf of the State Examinations Commission, as follows 7,307 (2005), 8,135 (2006) and 7,279 (2007). These counts, presented as requested in a calendar year format, are affected by the date of update of the database concerned rather then reflecting the true workflow/timing of the interventions. In addition it is estimated that NEPS psychologists provide consultations, advice and assistance to teachers and school authorities in respect of an additional 5,000 unnamed pupils in each of these years.
The National Educational Welfare Board was established in 2002 and has a statutory function to ensure that every child either attends school or otherwise receives an education. In this regard, the individual services delivered by the NEWB are as follows:
Individual Service 1: Case Activity
The number of cases handled by the Board at Dec 2005 = 7,734
The number of cases handled by the Board in 2006 = 5,708
The number of cases handled by the Board in 2007 = 4,800
The NEWB has confirmed that the apparent decline in the number of cases handled year on year is exclusively due to revised practices deployed by Welfare Officers to resolve issues locally before cases are formally opened by the Board. The reduction in the formal caseload is therefore indicative of the relative success of this strategy.
Individual Service 2: Education outside recognised schools
The Board also has particular responsibility under the Act in terms of children who are educated in settings outside of a recognised school. Under Section 14 of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000, parents of such children must apply to the Board to have their child registered and an assessment is then carried out. The aim of the assessment is to ensure that each child receives at least "a certain minimum education" in the alternative educational environment. At present, 419 children are registered with the Board as being home educated. 31 Private Schools have been registered with the Board and in total 5,484 children are registered with the Board under this category.
Individual Service 3:
The Education Helpline Service was established to provide guidance to both Parents and Schools in relation to children's education.In 2005-2006 2,823 calls were received by the Schools Educational Helpline. In 2006-2007 2,598 calls were received by the Schools Educational Helpline. To date, 6000 queries have been dealt with by the Parents Educational Helpline. Educational Welfare Officers provide the services of the Board at local level and a significant part of the service delivery involves informal preventative work through extensive engagement and interaction with Schools, Parents, School Personnel and Other Professionals working in schools and communities to improve the outcomes for children experiencing difficulty with school attendance.