The Dáil will this week debate a Fianna Fáil Private Members Business motion aimed at addressing serious shortcomings with psychological services in primary and post-primary schools.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton recently confirmed to Fianna Fáil Education Spokesperson Thomas Byrne that the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) is drastically understaffed. NEPS works with both primary and post-primary schools and is concerned with learning, behaviour, social and emotional development.

Deputy Byrne said, “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.

“I 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 has tabled a special motion with the aim of getting movement on this issue without any further delay.

“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. Ultimately, we need to see increases in the number of ASD classes to ensure students are able to reach their full potential. The Government has stalled long-enough on this issue, we now need to see decisive action.”