Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Thomas Byrne says the scale of the crisis facing the psychological services in schools is far worse than initially feared.

Deputy Byrne previously highlighted that 299 schools across the country do not have access to a psychologist service. However the Department of Education has since corrected a parliamentary reply issued by Minister Bruton and have outlined that there are in fact 397 schools left without a psychologist service.

“The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) is chronically under-resourced. There are numerous schools where children have no access to a psychologist service. This is extraordinary when you consider the extreme stresses that many children undergo as they grow older,” said Deputy Byrne.

“Last year I tabled a parliamentary question to Minister Bruton to determine the exact number of schools left without access to a psychologist service. At the time the Minister responded to say that 299 schools were left without such a service. This was a shocking figure and demonstrated the long-term effect of under investment in school psychologist services.

“However the Minister has recently written to me to highlight that the information contained in his initial reply is incorrect. He has outlined that there are in fact 397 schools without access to a professional psychologist service. This is a shocking upward revision which demonstrates the full scale of the crisis that NEPS is currently going through. Minister Bruton needs to urgently correct the Dáil record.

“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 which was published earlier this month 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.”