I can inform the Deputy that in 2017 my Department introduced a new model to support pupils with special educational needs. This means schools are now front-loaded with additional teachers to enable them to respond to pupil needs, rather than requiring an assessment to allow them to apply for such additional resource. This reduces the administrative burden on schools as schools will no longer have to complete an application process annually and apply for newly enrolled pupils who require additional teaching support. Children who need support can have that support provided immediately rather than having to wait for a diagnosis.
Additionally pupils with developmental issues may require an assessment of need, which is provided by the HSE services.
My Department’s National Educational Psychological Service delivers a tiered, consultative model of service. Each school takes responsibility for initial assessment, educational planning and intervention for pupils with difficulties including those with developmental delay. Teachers consult with their NEPS psychologist for assistance should they need to at this stage in the process. Only in the event of a failure to make reasonable progress, in spite of the school's best efforts, in consultation with NEPS, will the psychologist become directly involved with an individual child for intensive intervention or assessment.
This system allows psychologists to give early attention to urgent cases and also to help many more children indirectly than could be seen individually. It also ensures that children are not referred unnecessarily for psychological support. I would advise that parents of children in schools for whom concerns exist in relation to developmental delay should, in the first instance, raise the matter with the principal of the relevant school with a view to involving the assigned NEPS psychologist in the issue, where appropriate.