Dáil Éireann - Volume 495 - 22 October, 1998

Written Answers - Psychological Service.

53. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the degree to which psychological assessment is available in primary and post-primary schools; if he has received an indication [1336] of the requirements from representatives of school authorities and teachers unions; the degree to which the current and projected need is being met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20792/98]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin): All second level schools are assigned to one of the psychologists employed by my Department. Nineteen psychologists are engaged in the post-primary sector.

The service to primary schools is still in the development stage, although there has been considerable expansion over the past 12 months. There are now 27 psychologists working in the sector. The psychological service is available to all primary schools designated as disadvantaged in the cities of Dublin, Cork and Limerick; all primary schools in County Tipperary South Riding and between 15 and 30 schools in each of the following counties: Clare, Cork, Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Kildare, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Offaly, Sligo, Tipperary North Riding and Wicklow.

The psychologists try to provide a balance between individual casework, including assessment work, and general support and development work in schools. They engage in casework as the resources of time and personnel allow.

I am aware that all the needs for assessments may not be met. It is my intention therefore that all schools should have ready access-to a psychological service through the establishment of a national educational psychological service which will be available to all primary and secondary schools as well as to preschool children. Plans for this service are included in the programme for Government.

In 1997, I set up a planning group to survey the current availability of psychological services to students in schools and to make recommendations to me on the developments that would be necessary in order to ensure effective provision in all areas. The planning group included representatives of all the partners in education, including school management authorities and teachers' organisations. It met frequently between October 1997 and June 1998. All members of the group availed of the opportunity to provide evidence of needs as well as their views on the proposed new psychological service. The planning group set up a technical working group to provide a detailed examination of the current availability of psychological services to children and young people and of the estimated needs for such services. This group included representatives of the major clients, including teachers and parents.

The report of the planning group has now been published. I launched it publicly on 15 September and have now set up an implementation group in my Department to plan the phased expansion of the psychological service to all schools.