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 also 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. I have made enquiries in relation to the student referred to in the Deputy's question and understand that no request has been made by the school to the NEPS psychologist assigned to the school.
I would advise that the parents contact the School Principal in relation to their son's situation and can assure that the services of the NEPS Psychologist are available to him if appropriate. The local NEPS regional office at Friars Mill Road, Mullingar can be contacted by phone at 0761-108573.
In relation to the provision of SNA support at the school referred to by the Deputy, I wish to advise 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 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 NCSE allocates a quantum of SNA support for each school annually taking into account the assessed care needs of children qualifying for SNA support. Where children have significant care needs whereby they may need additional support to be able to attend school, the NCSE may make an allocation of SNA support to the school to assist that child.
The deployment of SNAs within schools is then a matter for the individual Principal/Board of Management. SNAs should be deployed by the school in a manner which best meets the care support requirements of the children enrolled in the school for whom SNA support has been allocated. It is a matter for schools to allocate support as required, and on the basis of individual need, which allows schools flexibility in how the SNA support is utilised.
The NCSE has invited schools to make applications for SNA support for children who have assessed care needs for the coming 2014/15 school year by 26th March 2014, for their consideration. Details of the NCSE application criteria are available at www.ncse.ie.
Although the date for applications has passed, if the school wish to make an application for SNA support for the child referred to by the Deputy, and have not done so to date, they should still submit an application for SNA support to the NCSE and this will be considered by the NCSE.
The NCSE intend to advise all schools of their SNA allocations for the coming school year before the end of the current school year.
All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.