A range of resources are available to support schools in dealing with identified additional educational needs, including needs which may arise for children who are experiencing homelessness. These include National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) supports and Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) supports.
The staff of schools are very sensitive to the needs of children who are experiencing disruption in their lives and make every effort to support the additional needs they experience. Where they are aware of homelessness and where it is impacting on school attendance and participation they can engage closely with the Educational Welfare Service of Tusla and with the support services of my own Department including the National Educational Psychological Service.
Identification of Need and Early Intervention Strategies are considered key components to supporting children who experience homelessness. The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) works with schools through the DES Continuum of Support framework. The NEPS Model of Service works through a problem solving and solution oriented consultative approach to support schools to meet the needs of individual pupils. NEPS psychologists can provide advice and guidance to Principals and teachers in relation to individual students needs and in the development of whole school approaches to support inclusion, participation and integration.
DEIS is the main policy initiative of my Department to tackle educational disadvantage. DEIS provides additional supports, through the DEIS School Support Programme, to schools identified as having the highest concentrations of pupils from disadvantaged communities. Schools can use these additional resources to meet the identified needs of their pupil cohort, including the additional needs that may arise for pupils experiencing homelessness.
DEIS Schools can also avail of Home School Community Liaison and School Completion supports provided by Tusla’s Educational Welfare Service in relation to school attendance, retention and progression which can be areas of particular challenge to pupils experiencing homelessness. Tusla Educational Welfare service have produced guidance for home school community Liaison Co-ordinators and School Completion programmes for engaging with children and families experiencing homelessness.
TUSLA have also produced a guidance leaflet on school attendance information for families experiencing homelessness outlining how the educational welfare service can assist.
In addition the Department of Employment and Social Protection runs the School Meals Programme which is an important component of policies to address the educational and health disadvantages associated with an inadequately nutritious diet in childhood.