Hundreds of primary schools lack psychological services

Fianna Fáil education spokesman expresses concern over ‘alarming’ gaps in resources

Hundreds of primary schools do not have access to State psychologist services, new figures show. File photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Hundreds of primary schools do not have access to State psychologist services, new figures show. File photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

 

Hundreds of primary schools do not have access to State psychologist services at a time of rising concern over the wellbeing of students, new figures show.

Almost 200 schools attended by about 35,000 students do not have assigned educational psychologists, according to figures obtained by Fianna Fáil’s education spokesman Thomas Byrne TD.

He said these “alarming” gaps were affecting vulnerable schoolchildren through delays in assessments for young people with behavioural difficulties, emotional difficulties or special needs.

“These figures reveal that many schools are still experiencing extreme difficulty in accessing adequate psychological services for pupils,” Mr Byrne said.

“This is having a detrimental impact on children’s development as it affects their access to resource teaching hours and learning supports.”

He said the situation was particularly severe in some areas, including Dublin, Mayo and Meath.

Emotional development

These services are provided by the National Educational Psychological Service, which is concerned with learning, behaviour, social and emotional development of students.

In a statement, a spokesman for Minister for Education Richard Bruton said psychologists were recruited via regional panels formed from national recruitment competitions.

Gaps, however, have arisen due to factors such as retirement, resignation or transfer to another regions.

He said the Government was committed to the expanding the scheme to ensure earlier intervention and access for young children and teenagers.

This will see the number of psychologists under the service increase from 173 to 238.

The spokesman said schools continue to have access to a psychologist through a panel of private psychologists, which are paid for by the State.

Critical incident

He also pointed out that all schools are able to access full supports in the event of a critical incident.

Mr Byrne said his party had made the recruitment of 100 new psychologists a condition of its support for the minority Government.

“We have known for some time that the service is drastically understaffed. For example, in most instances it takes over a year for students to be assessed for special education needs,” he said.