It is good to see a man from the royal county.
Support from the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, is available to every recognised primary and second level school. NEPS, in consultation with schools, prioritises children for support, consultation and-or assessment who have failed to make adequate progress despite an appropriate continuum of support being delivered for these children. Under its model of service, NEPS focuses on building school capacity by encouraging schools to engage in initial assessment, educational planning and remedial intervention for pupils with learning, emotional or behavioural difficulties. Teachers may consult their NEPS psychologist should they need to at this stage in the process. Only in the event of a failure to make reasonable progress in spite of the school's best efforts in consultation with NEPS will the psychologist become involved with an individual child for intensive support.
The support NEPS provides to schools and students is vital. The programme for a partnership Government has committed to invest additional resources in this area, with the objective of bringing the total staff up to 238 educational psychologists, an increase of 25% over the lifetime of the Government. This will allow NEPS to increase its level of support to schools.
The National Council for Special Education, NCSE, has a statutory role under the Education of Persons with Special Educational Needs Act to provide me with policy advice on matters concerning the education of persons with special educational needs.
The NCSE identified that the current model for allocating resource teachers to schools is potentially inequitable because access to the range of professional assessments required for the diagnosis of low incident disabilities is not always readily available to those who cannot afford to access them privately. The council also advised that the current model can lead to unnecessary labelling of children from a young age.
The council has proposed a new resource teaching allocation model which will, when introduced, remove the formal requirement for diagnostic assessment to access additional support. A pilot of the model is taking place across a number of schools in advance of implementation in the school system generally. As the pilot is still under way, it will not be possible to implement the new model in all schools in the coming year. The pilot has been developed in order to test the model and to allow for the practical effect of the application of the new model in the 47 pilot schools to be evaluated.
A review of the pilot has now commenced. This will allow us to take into account the learning experiences of schools, principals, pupils and the views of parents over the course of the pilot. On conclusion of the review, a decision will be taken on the timeframe for the full implementation of the proposed new allocation model.