Minister for Education Norma Foley TD and the Minister of State for Special Education and Inclusion, Josepha Madigan TD today (Wednesday 05 August) announced that the pilot of a School Inclusion Model, which includes an in School Therapy Demonstration project, will continue for the 2020/21 school year.
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has now been given sanction to recruit up to 31 speech and language, and occupational therapists, to support the continuation of this project, including the in-school and pre-school therapy demonstration project. Previously under the pilot, therapists were supplied by the HSE but these staff have been redeployed as part of the Covid-19 public health response. The provision of an in-school therapy service is a fundamental and integral part of the School Inclusion Model.
Minister Norma Foley said: “It is important that the pilot of the School Inclusion Model continues over the course of the 2020/21 school year, in order that we can test and evaluate an alternative model of providing for children’s needs in schools.
“This model includes provision for therapy support, including the integration of speech and language therapy, with other aspects of the development of children’s literacy development. It also provides for occupational therapy services in schools.”
Minister Madigan said: “The School Inclusion Model is designed to test a support model for schools which does not rely only on Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support, but which also provides for a range of additional supports, such as behavioural support, additional psychological support services, and therapy services in schools.
“This is an important and innovative pilot. Its aim is to ensure that we have the right supports in place for children at the right time. The completion and evaluation of the pilot project will support us in developing improved services for children with special educational needs in schools, not only providing for care needs, but a range of other needs as well.”
Arrangements have been made for an independent evaluation of the School Inclusion Model to take place over the course of the 2020/21 school year, which will be conducted by the Education and Social Research Institute.
The evaluation will seek to determine the impact of the School Inclusion Model on students, SNAs, parents, and the schools involved, including the outcomes attained.
The Department of Education and Skills currently spends approximately €1.9 billion, or almost 20% of its total educational budget, annually on making additional provision for children with special educational needs.
“The provision of education for children with special needs is a priority for this Government,” said Minister Foley.
“We will continue to invest in the area of special educational needs provision.
“However, it is also important that, in addition to this continuation of investment, that we also review our policies and practices to ensure that improvements can be made in relation to how we provide supports for children with special needs in schools.”
Minister Madigan said: “The continuation of the School Inclusion Model pilot project over the course of the 2020/21 school year is an important part of this process and a key priority for me. It will test and measure the impact of a wider overarching support system for schools.”
Notes for Editors
A demonstration project to provide in-school and pre-school therapy services took place over the course of the 2018/19 school year.
The project was developed by the Departments of Education, Children and Youth Affairs, Health, and the Health Service Executive and managed and co-ordinated by the National Council for Special Education.
The purpose of the project was to test a model of tailored therapeutic supports by providing speech and language and occupational therapy within ‘educational settings’. This innovative pilot complemented existing HSE funded provision of essential therapy services.
The project took 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 took part. 75 pre-school settings associated with primary schools participating in the project were included. In total 150 settings participated in the demonstration project.
The demonstration project is designed to provide for a 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.
Children who require speech and language therapy services and who are not attending one of the pilot schools continue to access services from the HSE. Children who are attending pilot schools and who receive therapy supports from the HSE also continue to access such services. The pre-school and in-school therapy model is designed to supplement, not to replace existing services.
Although initially designed as a one year pilot, a Government decision of 12th February, 2019, in relation to the Review of the Special Needs Assistant Scheme, also agreed to the establishment of a pilot of a new School Inclusion Model for children with special educational and additional care needs involving up to 75 participating schools in the CHO 7 region over the course of the 2019/20 school year.
For the 2019/20 pre-school/school year, the demonstration project therefore continued in the context of a School Inclusion Model, however, the pilot could not be completed given the fact that schools closed in March of this year.
The school based aspect of the therapy demonstration project is a fundamental and integral element of the School Inclusion Model, which follows policy advice from the NCSE on a comprehensive review of the SNA Scheme. Other key elements of the School Inclusion Model include:
- a new frontloaded allocation model of SNAs allocated in line with profiled need having regard to the approach taken by the New Allocation Model for Special Education Teachers which was introduced in September 2017;
- expansion of the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS);
- the creation and enhancement of NCSE Regional Support Teams, to include specialists in relevant disciplines (Speech and Language Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Behaviour Practitioners), in order to inform teacher Continuing Professional Development and best practice in schools in that area;
- the development of a National Training Programme for SNAs; and
- the provision of a nursing service for children with complex medical needs in schools to complement existing HSE-supported nursing provision.