Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Questions (330)

Patrick O'Donovan


330. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of children at primary level awaiting psychological assessments from NEPS, in tabular form by county; the maximum time a child is waiting by county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31842/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I can inform the Deputy that all primary and post primary schools have access to psychological assessments either directly through my Department's National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) or through the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA) which is administered by NEPS. NEPS does not keep waiting lists for assessments of children but in common with many other psychological services and best international practice, NEPS has adopted a consultative model of service. The focus is on empowering teachers to intervene effectively with pupils whose needs range from mild to severe and transient to enduring. Psychologists use a problem solving and solution focused consultative approach to maximize positive outcomes for these pupils. NEPS encourages schools to use a continuum based assessment and intervention process whereby each school takes responsibility for 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 intervention. This system allows 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. This process has been embedded by NEPS psychologists in the Primary sector with the production by the Department of Special Educational Needs – A Continuum of Support guidance and resource materials which has been distributed to all schools since 2007/8. In late 2010 similar support documentation was produced in relation to Emotional and Behavioural difficulties in the Primary sector and in relation to a formal Post-Primary Continuum process. The continua described above all involve a graduated problem solving model of assessment and intervention in schools processes which moves from basic classroom based interventions to more specialised and individual interventions and comprise three distinct school based phases characterised as follows: Classroom Support – is an intervention which is co-ordinated by the Class Teacher and is carried out in the regular classroom, School Support - is an assessment and intervention process which is usually co-ordinated by the learning support/resource teacher working alongside the class teacher. Interventions at this stage will be additional to those provided through classroom support. School Support Plus – is generally characterised by the school requesting the involvement by the relevant external service (predominantly NEPS) in more detailed assessment and development of intervention programmes. This level of intervention is for children with complex and/or enduring needs and whose progress is considered inadequate, despite carefully planned interventions at previous levels. The staged model recognises that pupils present with a wide range of issues and difficulties and allows for their amelioration and intervention at the level most appropriate to the particular need. The continuum approach ensures that pupils presenting within this range are dealt with quickly and at the appropriate level without the establishment of a waiting list for formal assessment.