Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Questions (329)

Patrick O'Donovan


329. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide details of the number of psychological assessments for learning support and resources hours that were successfully submitted for the allocation of hours in 2011 and 2012 which were carried out privately; the number of private assessment which did not result in the allocation of hours; the total number of assessments which were carried out by NEPS in the same period; the number of these that were successful and unsuccessful for the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31841/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special educational needs supports, including Resource Teaching support for children with more complex low incidence special needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such supports. I can inform the Deputy that 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), full details of which are on the Department's website. Where a NEPS psychologist is not assigned to a school, authorities therein may access psychological assessments through SCPA. Under this scheme schools 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 should be noted that in common with many other psychological services, NEPS encourages a staged assessment process, whereby each school takes responsibility for a pupil's initial assessment, educational planning and remedial intervention. 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. It is the responsibility of the school Principal in the first instance to identify and prioritise pupils for assessment under the process described above. The Deputy will be aware that some parents also acquire assessments for their children either privately, or through an assessment by the Health Service Executive. As all applications for low incidence resource teaching support are considered by the NCSE, I have referred the Deputy's question regarding the nature of the supporting assessments which have accompanied such applications for support to the NCSE in 2011 and 2012, and the number of applications approved, for their consideration and direct reply to the Deputy. The Deputy will be aware that the NCSE recently published comprehensive policy advice on Supporting Students with Special Educational Needs in Schools. This policy advice is available on the NCSE website www.ncse.ie. The policy advice concluded that children with special educational needs are well supported in schools. However, the NCSE also concluded that the current allocation system does not always provide all children with special educational needs with the same access to supports, as some children may be delayed in receiving supports due to difficulties in accessing an assessment for a diagnosis of disability which is needed to trigger additional teaching support for students with more complex disabilities under the current allocation system. I have, therefore, as recommended by the Report, requested the NCSE to establish a Working Group which will consider this issue and develop a proposal, for consideration, for a new allocation model for teaching supports for children with Special Educational Needs based on the profiled educational needs of children in schools.