Friday, 6 September 2019

Questions (312)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire


312. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education and Skills the estimated cost to restore the 15% cut in resource hours teaching; and the estimated cost to increase the national educational psychological service, NEPS, by 25%. [35234/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

From September 2017, a new model for allocating special education teachers was introduced. This model allocates special education teachers to schools based on the profiled needs of schools, as opposed to the assessed needs of individual children.  

The revised allocation process replaced the generalised allocation process at primary and post primary school level for learning support and high incidence special educational needs, and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) allocation process which provided additional resource teaching supports to schools, to support pupils assessed as having Low Incidence disabilities.

The previous system which provides allocations of resource teaching support for individual pupils in particular disability categories, guided by the Report of the Special Education Review Committee (SERC Report), therefore no longer applies. 

  The new Special Education Teaching allocation provides a single unified allocation for special educational support teaching needs to each school, based on each school’s educational profile.

1,000 additional special education teachers have been provided for schools since 2017, while the total number of special education teachers has increased by 37% since 2011, from 9,740 in 2011, to over 13,400 at present.

Adding an additional 15% to the current level of provision of 13,400 posts, would require the addition of some 2000 extra special education teachers, at an approximate cost of €120 Million per year.

My Department’s National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) 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).

Following on from an increase allowed in the 2018 Budget that the sanctioned number for NEPS psychologist stands at 194 whole-time equivalents of which some 187 w.t.e. posts are currently filled with 7 posts vacant due to on-going retirements and resignations, etc. within the Service.  Even at this current level this represents the highest number of psychologists to be employed within NEPS since the inception of the service in 2000.

Additionally the Deputy may be aware that under the provisions of Budget 2019 I was pleased to announce that NEPS psychologist numbers will expand by a further 10 posts from the start of the new academic year bringing the overall approved psychologist numbers to 204 w.t.e .

I can inform the Deputy that a national recruitment competition is currently in operation by the Public Appointments Service in conjunction with my Department to replenish NEPS Regional Recruitment Panels to allow for both the filling of the above-mentioned vacancies and the expansion of NEPS number by a further 10 posts from September.

In answer to the Deputies specific question I can inform that NEPS 2019 budget stands at €20.756m and therefore a straight 25% increase would amount to an additional €5.2m.  An increase of 25% on the existing NEPS psychologist staff complement would add approximately 50 posts. The average direct pay and non-pay cost per annum of engaging an individual Educational Psychologist is €75,000 per annum. The estimated annual additional cost, therefore, of employing the following numbers would be €3.75m