I wish to advise 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. In relation to assessment for special needs resourcing, I might add that NEPS psychologists would normally only have input into the process in relation to pupils with General Learning Difficulties (GLD) and Emotional Disturbance/ Behavioural Disorders (EDBD) with other types of special needs, such as for example, Autism being referred to clinicians for diagnosis. It is the responsibility of the school Principal in the first instance to identify and prioritise pupils for assessment under the process described above and advise that the school in question may raise individual pupils with the NEPS service if they have concerns in this regard.
I wish to advise the Deputy also that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports, including the allocation of resource teachers and Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools. The NCSE operates within my Department's established criteria for the allocation of Special Education supports and the staffing resources available to my Department. The responsibility for deciding on the quantum of educational resources to be allocated to pupils with special educational needs resides with the NCSE through the SENO.
Assessment reports carried out by relevant professionals are provided by schools to the SENOs as part of the application process for support. The consideration of these reports is an integral part of determining the extent of supports to be provided for pupils with special educational needs. Whereas health reports provide valuable assistance to education providers in identifying a diagnosis or identifying appropriate interventions, health staff are asked not to include references to the specific quantum of educational resources in their reports, but should state the outcome of tests carried out and the range of needs of the child as clearly as possible. The NCSE circular 03/08 clarifies the respective roles and functions of the NCSE and the HSE and their respective personnel in carrying out assessments and sanctioning resources to support children with special educational needs.