The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) is drastically understaffed both nationally and in Kildare North. New information from the Department of Education reveals that two schools, St Farnan’s Post Primary School, Prosperous and Rathmore National School students have no access to a NEPS psychologist.
There are currently serious issues with the provision of school psychologist services. NEPS is drastically understaffed and is struggling to keep up with demand. For example, in most instances it takes over a year for students to be assessed for special education needs. This is having a detrimental impact on these children’s development as it affects their access to resource teaching hours and learning supports.
There are serious defects in the current allocation of resource teaching and learning support across schools. There is a chronic shortage of special ASD classes at post-primary level, with less than half (45%) the number of classes available at primary level. Overall there are 548 ASD classes at primary and just 237 at post-primary. There is also a severe shortage of ASD classes at pre-school level. This is a national travesty and is limiting many students ability to reach their full potential.
We have raised this issue with Minister Richard Bruton and have highlighted the need for additional investment in NEPS. Unfortunately action by the Government has not been forthcoming to date. This is why Fianna Fáil had tabled a special motion with the aim of getting movement on this issue without any further delay which was debated in the Dáil this week.
The Government must act to honour the commitment contained in the Programme for Government to increase the number of NEPS psychologists with the goal of reducing the ratio of students to each psychologist in real terms. In the end, we need to see increases in the number of ASD classes to ensure students are able to reach their full potential. Success on this ultimately means better services for children across Kildare who will be seen far quicker when needing to be assessed for special education needs.