Led by the Department of Education and Skills, the In-School and In-Pre-school Therapy Demonstration project has involved close collaboration with the Department of Health and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. Although initially designed as a one year pilot, the project will now continue into an additional year with up to 75 schools and 75 early learning and care services in the CHO 7 region participating over the course of the 2019/20 school year.
The vision for the project is set out in the Terms of Reference which notes that: "The demonstration model will be required to test and evaluate a model for the delivery of in-school and pre-school speech and language and occupational therapy support, in a defined regional area, or areas, supplementary to existing Health Service Executive Therapy services, while not impacting negatively on such services."
The pilot will continue into the new academic year 2019-2020 and will focus on developing greater linkages between educational and therapy supports. It will continue to aim to provide for school and pre-school therapy services and also professional support, training and guidance for staff and parents. It will continue to seek to assist schools and pre-schools to develop their capacity to support children with speech and language therapy needs in schools and pre-schools, through tiered levels of support, while also focusing on early identification and intervention.
The first year of the project is being evaluated and the report for the initial stage of the project is due to be finalised and published by September 2019. The new School Inclusion Model, announced following the Review of the Special Needs Assistant Scheme, involves the establishment of a pilot of a new service model for children with special educational and additional care needs. It has been decided to trial this scheme in the same 75 schools in the Demonstration Project in the CHO 7 area from September 2019. An evaluation process will be put in place for this trial. This will include some ongoing evaluation of the In-Pre-School and In-School Therapy Demonstration project, as a component of the School Inclusion Model.
The outcome of the total evaluations will influence the future roll out of the In-Pre-School and In-School Therapy Demonstration project.