Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Questions (111)

Alan Kelly


111. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if secondary schools have access to NEPS over weekends; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40973/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy may be aware 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).

I would inform the Deputy that NEPS provides guidelines, resource materials and support for schools to enable them to deal with certain traumatic events which can adversely affect pupils and school staff. The guidelines "Responding to Critical Incidents: Guidelines for Schools and resource Materials for Schools" refer to preventive approaches that schools can adopt in creating a safe and supportive environment. It also outlines how schools can plan for crises.

A Critical Incident is defined as an incident, or series of events, that overwhelms the normal coping mechanism of the school. The kinds of critical incidents experienced by schools includes suicide or suspected suicide, death due to violence, accidental death including road traffic accidents and drowning, and death through illness of a member of the school community. The ultimate aim of the process is to return the school to normality.

The Guidelines focus upon alerting schools to planning processes, structures and actions which will better allow them to cope with a traumatic incident. In relation to suicide advice is also given on prevention and positive mental health stratagems and approaches.

The Guidelines offer a practical step by step guide to schools in how to respond effectively when a critical incident occurs in order to minimise the potential traumatic effect on the school community. It includes templates, advice and information on how to set up a Critical Incident Management Team and develop a Critical Incident Management Plan. Training has been provided by NEPS staff to primary and secondary schools in relation to this process.

During a critical incident NEPS psychologists will also, at the specific invitation of school authorities, attend at the schools following such incidents to offer direct advice and assistance to school staff and pupils. Depending on the nature, context and severity of the traumatic incident NEPS staff will also assist school authorities in the co-ordination of supports with broader community based services. All such requests are responded to, most usually by the psychologist normally assigned to the affected school but also in some cases, depending on the particular context, accompanied by a colleague within the NEPS region. In 2017/18 some 328 critical incidents were raised by schools with NEPS in respect of which some 166 involved direct attendance on-site by NEPS staff.

Access to NEPS services, including those in respect of critical incidents, are provided to schools during normal office and school operating hours on a Monday – Friday basis.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.