Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Thomas Byrne TD has expressed concern following the revelation that the Government has delayed recruiting additional educational psychologists for schools.

Deputy Byrne said, “The Action Plan for Education published in 2016 committed to hiring 65 educational psychologists during the first quarter of 2017. However the updated Action Plan for Education published earlier this week has delayed the hiring process until the second quarter of 2017 at the very earliest. To make matters worse, the updated plan only mentions hiring an additional 10 educational psychologists.

“The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) works with both primary and post-primary schools and is concerned with learning, behaviour, social and emotional development. The service plays an important role in helping children to overcome challenging circumstances.

“The delay in making these appointments is disappointing considering it’s well acknowledged that we urgently need to hire additional educational psychologists to assist students with special needs. No explanation has been given as to why the recruitment process has been delayed. This needs to be addressed by the Government considering information which I recently received which shows that some 199 schools with 34,575 pupils do not have access to a psychologist service.

“These figures reveal that many schools are still experiencing extreme difficulty in accessing adequate psychological services for pupils. The situation is particularly severe in some areas such as Dublin, Mayo and Meath. There are 34,500 primary pupils without access to a psychologist right across the country. This is 7% of all pupils in our primary education system.

“The schools that do not have an assigned educational psychologist are severely disadvantaged in terms of delays to assessments for special educational needs or behavioural difficulties. Overall children in these schools have limited access to psychological supports and counselling services when a crisis presents.

“I’m also alarmed by the fact that the updated Action Plan for Education only mentions the intention to hire an additional 10 educational psychologists. This is in stark contrast to the 65 positions that were promised last year. Many schools are struggling to provide adequate support for children with special needs. These additional posts are urgently needed to address this problem.

“I intend raising this matter directly with Minister for Education Richard Bruton. He needs to explain why he is missing targets that he himself has set,” concluded Deputy Byrne.