Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Ceisteanna (384)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

384. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps taken to assist facilities and schools in a time of great tragedy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14272/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I would inform the Deputy that my Department's National Educational Psychological Service (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.

The Guidelines were updated in 2016 and sent out to schools with new or revised information and advice, including:

- Revised section on suicide / suspected suicide including information on suicide prevention and what schools need to do; information on preventing suicide contagion; how to compassionately deal with a suicidal student returning to school after an attempt

- Information on suicide risk and guidance where student expresses suicide ideation

- Teachers helping students in time of crisis listen, protect, connect, model and teach

- Guidance on social media use

- Useful Websites and Helplines for accessing resources

- Some additional information, including a comprehensive FAQ guide.

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, by a colleague within the NEPS region.

For data purposes NEPS records critical incidents at three response levels:

Level 1 - an incident which involves a telephone response to the school but where no on-site presence of NEPS staff is requested,

Level 2 – where the school in their contact with NEPS request the presence of NEPS personnel on-site to advise and assist,

Level 3 – events which have NEPS personnel on-site but are of a magnitude that involves a broader community response from other support services such as the HSE.