Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Questions (75)

Patrick O'Donovan


75. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the digitisation of files under the National Educational and Psychological Service; and if paper based files are still in use. [41322/18]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The National Educational Psychological Service provides educational psychological support to all primary and post-primary schools. This involves direct support in the event of a critical incident, access to national and regional support and development work to build school capacity to support students, access to a NEPS psychologist for responses to queries arising, and access to individual pupil casework via a NEPS psychologist or through the Scheme for the Commissioning of Psychological Assessments. (SCPA).

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 oriented consultative approach to maximise 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 or assessment.

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.

NEPS educational psychologists undertake some 8,000 such referrals for individual casework annually to investigate concerns raised, in the main by schools, in relation to the educational, social or emotional development of those pupils.

Such interventions are undertaken with parental consent and are documented in a client record maintained within NEPS. This process is predominantly a paper based one and informs the ongoing and future intervention with the child throughout their school career. These files retain all the salient details of the concerns raised in the referral, the details of the nature of the NEPS psychologist’s intervention and the report on his/her findings and recommendations which are produced and presented to the parents of the subject and the school authorities.

Short-hand soft detail of these referrals are maintained by NEPS on the Casetrack database which currently represents the only formal digitisation of the process. Additionally soft copies of assessment reports produced under the SCPA scheme, some 1,500 per annum, are captured by NEPS and retained in soft copy.

I can inform the Deputy that consideration is being given within my Department to the development of a new NEPS management information system which includes a redevelopment of the NEPS Casetrack database. This, in turn, does involve the prospect of maintaining a comprehensive ‘soft record’ of the referral rather than a hard-copy file. However the digitisation of the archive of NEPS past referral files is not currently being considered.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.