Schools speech and language scheme launched worth over €2m

Pilot programme a joint endeavour by HSE and Department of Education to boost supports

Early therapeutic intervention, especially in the area of speech and language, can have significant positive effects on a child’s social skills, mental health and academic performance. File photograph: Getty Images

Early therapeutic intervention, especially in the area of speech and language, can have significant positive effects on a child’s social skills, mental health and academic performance. File photograph: Getty Images

 

An ambitious plan to introduce specialised therapeutic services into schools for the first time has been launched by the Government.

Phase one of the project, a joint initiative between the Department of Education and the Health Service Executive, will mean 150 schools and pre-schools receive in-house speech and language and occupational therapy services.

Nineteen speech and language therapists and 12 occupational therapists are to be recruited as part of the pilot programme which has received €2.25 million in funding. Each therapist will support a cluster of schools.

The pilot scheme will test how early intervention and specialised therapeutic supports can be integrated into the education system, rather than taking place in a separate forum outside of schools.

“This model will bring together therapists and educational professionals who have until now often operated separately,” said Minister for Education Richard.

“It will allow them to work together to plan, collaborate, and share their professional knowledge and expertise. The project will allow therapists to use their time more efficiently to support greater numbers of pupils in school environments, where there are often large concentrations of need.”

Voluntary basis

The pilot is to be rolled out in HSE Community Healthcare Organisation Region 7 which includes West Dublin, Kildare, and West Wicklow. It will take place over the 2018-2019 school year.

Schools in those areas will be invited to take part on a voluntary basis. The department said it selected the region because it will allow the project to be tested in urban and rural schools.

The department said it has selected a broad range of schools to give a representative sample of the entire educational system, including educationally disadvantaged schools and those with significant therapy support needs.

The project will be managed and co-ordinated by the National Council for Special Education.

Establishing links and collaborative systems between therapists, parents, teachers and other schools staff will be a focus of the project.

It will also provide training and guidance in supporting therapy and developmental needs. Involving parents in their children’s speech and language development will be another dimension to the project.

At the end of the school year the project will be evaluated ahead of a potential national roll-out.

Academic performance

Early therapeutic intervention, especially in the area of speech and language, can have significant positive effects on a child’s social skills, mental health and academic performance.

“The development of children’s speech and language capabilities is clearly linked to their capacity to develop literacy skills, and thus to access the curriculum. That is why we seek to address these issues at the earliest possible point and intervene early,” Mr Bruton said.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said “the project will test a practical and innovative approach to ensuring that both universal and targeted therapeutic supports are available in children’s early years”.