National Educational Psychological Service: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]

The following motion was moved by Deputy Thomas Byrne on Wednesday, 8 March 2017.
"That Dáil Éireann:
recognises that:
— the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) is drastically understaffed, with 95,543 primary and post-primary pupils across 397 schools without access to an assigned NEPS psychologist;
— even for schools that do officially have an assigned NEPS psychologist, access to a psychological assessment for a developmental or behavioural issue is unacceptably long, creating adverse effects on children’s education and reducing access to resource teaching hours and learning supports, and privileging households that have the resources to opt for private assessment;
— there are serious inequities and defects in the current allocation of resource teachers and learning support across schools; and
— there is a serious shortage of special Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) classes at post-primary level, with less than half (45 per cent) the number of classes available at primary level; overall there are 548 ASD classes at primary and just 237 at post-primary, and there is also a severe shortage of ASD classes at pre-school level, with only 127 classes available throughout the country;
acknowledges that:
— while the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has proposed a reformed system, whereby access to resource teaching would no longer rely upon a formal diagnosis of learning difficulty, emotional or behavioural problems, there are legitimate concerns over aspects of the proposed new allocation model for resource teaching and learning supports that need to be addressed;
— the absence of special ASD classes in secondary schools is a national travesty and is creating real discrimination against children with ASD, and a much greater sense of urgency is required to ensure that these children can claim their entitlement to education by gaining admission to an appropriate school; and
— the outlawing of ‘soft barriers’ in the Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2016, to children with autism being admitted to school is insufficient to deal with the scale of the crisis; and
calls on the Government to:
— give a firm commitment that no child with assessed special education needs will be deprived of resource teaching or learning supports under the new allocation model and that schools will have additional provisions made available for students who start school from September 2017, with a specific diagnosis, either in junior infants or transferring from another school;
— bestow the NCSE with statutory powers to direct schools at primary and post-primary level to establish autism units and/or special classes where these are required in an area; and
— act on the commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government to increase the number of NEPS psychologists by at least 65 with the goal of reducing the ratio of students to each psychologist in real terms."
Debate resumed on amendment No. 2:
To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:
"recognises:
— the strong commitment of this Government and the last Government to the issues of student mental health and wellbeing, and special educational needs;
— that the Government’s commitment to special educational needs is evidenced in particular by the increase of the overall budget for special educational needs supports from €1.28 billion in 2011 to more than €1.5 billion now, with special educational needs accounting for approximately one fifth of the overall education budget, and corresponding improved outcomes for students;
— that the number of special classes has more than doubled, from 548 in 2011 to 1,153 across the country now, of which 889 are special Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) classes; that the number of special classes at post-primary level has doubled in the past three years and continues to rise rapidly;
— that the number of resource teachers has increased by more than 41%, from 5,265 in 2011 to over 7,500 now;
— that, since 2011, the number of Special Needs Assistants has increased by more than 22%, from 10,575 to 13,115; and
— that, since the previous Fine Gael-led Government took office in 2011, and despite an adverse economic climate, sanctioned National Educational Psychology Service (NEPS) staffing numbers have been maintained at the same levels, and NEPS now provides a service to an additional 20,000 pupils compared to 2011;
and calls on the Government to:
— restate its strong commitment to both the areas of special educational needs and student mental health and wellbeing, and the range of ambitious measures underway in these areas through the Action Plan for Education;
— give a firm commitment that no school and no student with special educational needs will lose resources as a result of moving to the new model of allocation of resource teaching, and above all that all students will see better outcomes as a result of its implementation;
— carefully evaluate the case before considering any legislative change to compel schools to open ASD units or special classes against their will as there should be convincing evidence that the school system in an area is failing to make provision for ASD students before any such move should be considered and any possible unintended consequences should be carefully examined, including the question of whether parents and students would be satisfied to attend a school which had been compelled to provide these services against its will;
— restate the commitment in the Programme for Partnership Government to deliver an additional 65 NEPS psychologists over the lifetime of this Government; and
— commits to the recruitment of a total of 21 educational psychologists by September 2017."
- (Minister for Education and Skills)

I must now deal with a postponed division relating to the motion regarding the National Educational Psychological Service. On Wednesday, 8 March 2017, on the question that the amendment to the motion be agreed to, a division was claimed, and in accordance with Standing Order 70(2), that division must be taken now.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 44; Níl, 84; Staon, 0.

  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Rock, Noel.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Níl

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Brassil, John.
  • Breathnach, Declan.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Browne, James.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Curran, John.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Harty, Michael.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Keeffe, Kevin.
  • O'Loughlin, Fiona.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Rourke, Frank.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Regina Doherty and Colm Brophy; Níl, Deputies Michael Moynihan and Thomas Byrne.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:

“recognises that:

— the National Educational Psychology Service (NEPS) is drastically understaffed, with 619 primary and post-primary schools across the State without access to a NEPS psychologist for the purposes of carrying out an assessment;

— the restriction of two assessments per 100 pupils under the current scheme means that access to a psychological assessment for a developmental or behavioural issue is unacceptably constrained, creating adverse effects on children’s education and reducing access to resource teaching hours and learning supports, and privileging households that have the resources to opt for private assessment;

— the insufficient resourcing of early intervention and school age teams for mental health and disability, means that the complex special education needs of a child are not always identified or assessed prior to enrolment at school;

— there are serious inequities and defects in the current allocation of resource teachers and learning supports across schools;

— the reduction of resource teaching hours to 85% of that recommended by the Special Education Review Committee was a cruel cut to vulnerable children; and

— there is a serious shortage of special autism spectrum disorder (ASD) classes at post-primary level, with less than half (45%) of the number of classes available at primary level; overall there are 548 classes at primary level and just 237 at postprimary, and there is also a severe shortage of ASD classes at pre-school level, with only 127 classes available throughout the State;

acknowledges that:

— while the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has proposed a reformed system, whereby access to resource teaching would no longer rely upon a formal diagnosis of learning difficulty, emotional or behavioural problems, there are legitimate concerns over aspects of the proposed new allocation model for resource teaching and learning supports that need to be addressed;

— the absence of special ASD classes in secondary schools is a travesty and is creating a real discrimination against children with ASD, and a much greater sense of urgency is required to ensure that these children can claim their entitlement to education by gaining admission to an appropriate school; and

— the outlawing of ‘soft barriers’ in the Education (Admissions to Schools) Bill 2016, to children with autism being admitted to school is insufficient to deal with the scale of the crisis; and

calls on the Government to:

— immediately restore the 15% cut in resource teaching hours and publish information on the criteria used to establish the resource allocation to schools, under the new resource allocation model, particularly in respect of the future complex needs model;

— give a firm commitment that no child with special educational needs will have their resource teaching hours or learning supports reduced under the new allocation model;

— ensure that an appropriate and robust appeals mechanism will be in place, as recommended by Inclusion Ireland, the NCSE and the inspectorate of the Department of Education and Skills, to address unanticipated changes in a school’s profile under the new resource allocation model, including instances where children start school from September 2017 or transfer from another school with special educational needs;

— immediately commit to the provision of sufficient resources for early intervention and school age teams for mental health and disability, including immediate funding for the recruitment of staff to fill all current vacancies;

— bestow the NCSE with statutory powers to direct schools at primary and post-primary level to establish autism units and-or special classes where these are required in an area; and

— act on the commitment in A Programme for Partnership Government to increase the capacity of the NEPS service, by the recruitment within a two-year timeframe of at least 100 additional NEPS psychologists with the goal of reducing the ratio of students to psychologists in real terms and ensuring that children have access to a timely assessment as envisaged by the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004.”

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 44; Níl, 85; Staon, 0.

  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Níl

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Brassil, John.
  • Breathnach, Declan.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Curran, John.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Harty, Michael.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Keeffe, Kevin.
  • O'Loughlin, Fiona.
  • O'Rourke, Frank.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Rock, Noel.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Carol Nolan; Níl, Deputies Michael Moynihan and Thomas Byrne.
Amendment declared lost.
Motion put and declared carried.