The Deputy will be aware that a demonstration project to provide in-school and pre-school therapy services was introduced for the 2018/19 school year.
The demonstration project has been developed by a Working Group which includes representatives from the Departments of Education, Children and Youth Affairs, Health, and the Health Service Executive (HSE).
The project is being managed and co-ordinated by the National Council for Special Education with clinical support also being provided by two HSE Therapy Managers which have been assigned to the project.
The purpose of the project is to test a model of tailored therapeutic supports that allows for early intervention in terms of providing speech and language and occupational therapy within ‘educational settings’. This innovative pilot will complement existing HSE funded provision of essential therapy services.
The project is taking place in Community Healthcare Organisation (CHO) 7 Region of South West Dublin, Kildare, and West Wicklow.
This region has been selected to ensure that the pre-school and in-school therapy model can be tested in both urban and rural locations and with a suitable mix of various types of schools and pre-schools.
75 schools, including a representative sample of primary, post primary, and special schools are taking part in the project.
75 Pre-school settings associated with primary schools participating in the project are being included in order to provide for therapy interventions to be made at the earliest possible time and to create linkages between pre-school and primary school provision.
In total, 150 settings are participating in the demonstration project.
Although initially designed as a one year pilot, a Government decision of 12th February, 2019, in relation to the Review of the Special Needs Assistant Scheme, also agreed to the establishment of a pilot of a new School Inclusion Model for children with special educational and additional care needs involving up to 75 participating schools in the CHO 7 region over the course of the 2019/20 school year.
The demonstration project to provide in-school and pre-school therapy services is therefore continuing, as part of the School Inclusion Model, over the course of the 2019/20 school year.
Decisions in relation to the extension of the service to other areas or Counties, or to extend the service nationally, will be taken following the evaluation of the existing informed pilot phase.