27 March, 2019 - Minister McHugh announces trial of a new School Inclusion Model to provide the right supports at the right time to students with additional needs

The Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh T.D. today announced the trialling of the School Inclusion Model – a new model of support for students with special educational and additional care needs.

The School Inclusion Model, supported by €4.75m funding allocated in Budget 2019, aims to build schools’ capacity to include children with additional needs and to provide other supports for pupils.

The achievement of better education and life outcomes for all children including those with special needs is a key element of Government policy with €1.75 billion - 19% of the total education budget - funding a range of supports including additional special needs teachers and SNAs. 

Seventy-five schools, both primary and post-primary, in Kildare, Wicklow and South Dublin will be invited to participate in this new research-based package of education and health supports to be piloted and evaluated in the 2019/20 school year. 

Key features of the School Inclusion Model are:

  • A new frontloading allocation model for Special Needs Assistants (SNAs). A profiling system for Special Education Teaching will be used to allocate resources, breaking the link with the need for an assessment. An appeals mechanism will be included to deal with exceptional cases in schools.
  • National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) will be expanded to provide more intensive support. Additional psychologists will be recruited for the pilot, giving greater access to the full range of in-school supports for students with complex educational needs.
  • SNAs will be offered a new National Training Programme. It will be designed to equip them with the skills and knowledge to support students with additional care needs arising from significant medical, physical, emotional/behavioural, sensory, communication and other significant difficulties that pose a barrier to participating in school life. The training will emphasise the need for students to develop independence and resilience.
  • A new national nursing service for children with complex medical needs in schools. A cross agency planning group is to be established to develop the scope for the scheme, develop an application procedure for schools and plan for how the service is to be delivered. The new service will complement current provision provided through community based services.
  • A Regional Support Team will be set up for schools in the pilot, under the auspices of the NCSE. The team will include 4 Speech and Language Therapists, 2 Occupational Therapists and 4 Behaviour Support practitioners. A further 19 Speech and Language Therapists and 12 Occupational Therapists will deliver supports within schools.
  • Consultation with schools, teachers and parents. 

Minister McHugh said: “Inclusion and access are a core value of our education system. We want every child to have the opportunity to learn and develop as well as they can and to get the supports they need to do that. The trial of this innovative School Inclusion Model will test and evaluate broader and more holistic education and health supports for children with special and additional care needs.

“Quality outcomes and meaningful inclusion for children with additional needs are achieved by having quality school staff including teachers and special needs assistants, effective leadership, parental involvement and well developed policy and practice in schools.

“I am pleased that the model does not require a formal diagnosis for access to SNA support. This is an important step towards a needs-based model, similar to what we have in the allocation of special education teachers.”

Minister of State for Disability Issues Finian McGrath T.D. said: “I am very happy to support this new initiative to deliver additional supports to help children achieve their best.

“This new model will complement community provision for children with additional needs and allow health care professionals to work with schools and teachers in a setting familiar to children.” 

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr. Katherine Zappone T.D. said: “I am extremely supportive of this new Model of School Inclusion and believe that its findings will be useful in determining the best path forward for inclusive support. 

“There has already been great collaboration across disciplines in the early years’ sector with the AIM model and I look forward to seeing the results of this pilot project and how they can be applied in future for the benefit of all children with additional needs.” 

The School Inclusion Model has been developed based on policy advice from the NCSE, which is playing a leading role in the development and management of the pilot. 

It builds on the one-year pilot which was commenced in September 2018 providing speech and language therapy and occupational therapy support in 150 schools and pre-school settings. The model is considerably expanded on this initial pilot, and will be offered to the 75 schools that participated in this initial work. 

The model is a collaboration across the Departments of Education and Skills, Health, and Children and Youth Affairs, as well as the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Minister McHugh said: “The trialling of new approaches, learning from evidence and collaboration between different disciplines to achieve the best outcomes is at the heart of this pilot. I would like to thank all of those who are engaging in this new way, in seeking better outcomes for our children. I hope sincerely that this pilot of the School Inclusion Model achieves its aims and that we can learn from it and build on it into the future.”


Notes for Editors  


The NCSE published Policy Advice Paper No. 6 – Comprehensive Review of the Special Needs Assistant Scheme: A New School Inclusion Model to Deliver the Right Supports at the Right Time to Students with Additional Care Needs in May 2018. 

The NCSE concluded that a better model of support was required. They consider that what is needed is the right support at the right time provided by a range of personnel with relevant qualifications and skill-sets. 

In February 2019 Government approved the trialling of a new School Inclusion Model for the 2019/20 school year. 

Building on Work to date

The pilot scheme being launched today builds on an existing scheme, the in-school demonstration therapy project.

This is a demonstration project to provide in-school and pre-school therapy services has been taking place over the course of the 2018/19 school year.

The project has been developed by the Departments of Education, Children and Youth Affairs, Health, and the Health Service Executive and is being managed and co-ordinated by the National Council for Special Education.

The project is taking place in the Health Service Executive (HSE) Community Healthcare Organisation (CHO) 7 Region of South West Dublin, Kildare and West Wicklow. 75 schools, including a representative sample of primary, post primary, and special schools have been taking part. 75 Pre-school settings associated with primary schools participating in the project are also been included. In total 150 settings will participate in the demonstration project.

The initial phase of the project provided for a clinical Speech and Language Therapy service delivery model of specialist, targeted and universal supports in line with best practice for pupils which will see them receiving supports along a continuum of provision depending on the extent or severity of needs of the child/pupil.

The project is being evaluated over the course of the 2018/19 school year.