Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education and Skills Thomas Byrne TD says he is alarmed by the lack of educational psychological services available in schools.

Deputy Byrne made the comments after receiving new information from the Department of Education and Skills which shows that 199 schools with 34,575 pupils do not have access to a psychologist services.

The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) works with both primary and post-primary schools and is concerned with learning, behaviour, social and emotional development.

“We have known for some time that the NEPS is drastically understaffed. 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,” explained Deputy Byrne.

“Fianna Fáil has been raising concerns about the understaffing of the NEPS for some time now. This is why we made the recruitment of 100 new psychologists a condition of our Confidence and Supply Agreement to facilitate a minority Government.

“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 these children have limited access to psychological supports and counselling services when a crisis presents itself.

“These figures are alarming and show that further work is needed with the provision of psychological services for pupils. Fianna Fáil will be looking for further progress in this area in the months ahead,” said Deputy Byrne.