04 January, 2021 – Minister Madigan welcomes positive feedback for first ever dedicated in-school therapy supports for students

The Minister of State for Special Education and Inclusion, Josepha Madigan TD today announced the publication of the evaluation report for the new In-School and Early Years Therapy Support Demonstration Project.

The purpose of the innovative project was to test a model of therapy supports within schools, by providing speech and language and occupational therapy services in 75 schools and 75 early years’ learning centres over the course of the 2018/19 school year. It took place in the Health Service Executive (HSE) Community Healthcare Organisation (CHO) 7 Region of South West Dublin, Kildare and West Wicklow. The project will now be expanded more widely in 2021.

This pilot complemented existing HSE-funded provision of essential therapy services.

The evaluation has found that there have been a number of very positive impacts for children and schools arising from the demonstration project, including:

  • Therapy supports established in schools and early learning centres serving more than more than 27,678 children.
  • Training for over 1,155 educators including teachers, SNAs, managers and principals received through attendance at 75 separate education events during the first year of the project.
  • 143 programmes delivered focused on engaging and supporting parents and other caregivers.
  • 1,736 occupational therapy and speech and language therapy interventions designed and implemented across participating schools.
  • 1248 (71 per cent) therapy interventions focused on providing universal therapy supports that would facilitate school participation for all children.
  • Over 280 individualised supports and one-to-one interventions provided by therapists to children identified across all of the 150 participating schools (16 per cent of all interventions). This included 167 one-to-one therapy interventions for individual children within their schools or ELCs.

Welcoming the publication of the evaluation report Minister Madigan said: “This is the first step in an important reform of our special education system that will see therapy supports provided in school settings.

“It is important that we continue to develop and expand the range of supports that we can provide for children with special educational need in schools. This includes increasing the kind of interactions between educational and therapy services which can significantly impact on children’s development and education.

“Providing early access to speech and language therapy or occupational therapy services can make a vitaldifference to children’s future opportunities.

“I am committed to promoting and supporting the development of inclusion in education. This includes creating stronger linkages between parents, teachers and speech and language therapists.

“In Budget 2021, I have secured increased investment in special educational services, with approximately €2 billion, or some 20 per cent of the Department of Education’s budget due to be spent on special educational supports next year.

“In addition to recruiting more special education teachers and special needs assistants we are also seeking to expand the extent and the kind of supports that can be provided for children in schools, to ensure that additional necessary supports such as therapy services, behavioural support, or nursing services can also be provided for children who need them in school.

“I was very pleased be able to announce, as part of the 2021 Budget measures, that funding is being made available next year to extend the School Inclusion Model (SIM) to two other pilot areas in 2021. This evaluation demonstrates the potential that delivering in-school therapy supports has for improving outcomes for students and will assist us in developing and extending the services to other areas.”

This project was developed by the Departments of Education, Health, Children, Equality, Disability Integration and Youth, and the Health Service Executive and was co-ordinated by the National Council for Special Education.

This evaluation was commissioned by the National Council for Special Education, and carried out by a team from University College Cork and Mary Immaculate College Limerick.

This evaluation report is being published today and will be available at https://ncse.ie/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Demo-project-evaluation-fInal-for-web-upload.pdf

ENDS

Evaluation Report Outcomes:

  • An innovative tiered model of therapy support was developed within a tight timeframe by the project team.
  • This model of support was established in all participating settings, allowing for the delivery of speech and language, and occupational therapy support services to 150 schools and early learning centre (ELC) settings.
  • The project was successful in its aim to implement an in-school continuum of therapy supports in 150 schools and ELCs, serving more than 27,678 children.
  • During the first year of the project, over 1,155 educators including teachers, SNAs, managers and principals received training through attendance at 75 separate education events.
  • 1,736 occupational therapy and speech and language therapy interventions were designed and implemented across participating ELC settings (897), primary schools, post-primary schools, special schools (839 across all three setting types).
  • Of the total number of therapy interventions, 1248 (71 per cent) were focused on providing universal therapy supports that would facilitate school participation for all children (Tier 1 interventions). These included 169 staff training and continued professional development interventions, and 123 whole-class inclusion initiatives.
  • Project teams delivered 143 programmes focused on engaging and supporting parents and other caregivers.
  • Therapists also delivered over 280 (16 per cent of all interventions) individualised supports and one-to-one interventions to children identified across all of the 150 participating settings (Tier 3 interventions). This included 167 one-to-one therapy interventions for individual children within their schools or ELCs.

The provision of therapy services continued in the pilot area as part of a wider pilot of a School Inclusion Model, over the course of the 2019/20, prior to school closures. This will continue into the current 2020/21 school year. However, the evaluation which is being published today relates to the demonstration project for therapy services only, which took place in 2018/19.