The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) is probably one of the most paradoxical. It is completely undervalued and under-resourced by the Department of Education but it provides one of the most important services for schools lucky enough to be able to get a hold of them.
The interesting thing is that NEPS, if it was better resourced, could effectively take over a number of agencies that simply are not working.
Once a child hits primary school, since 2018, the Department of Education have made it more difficult for our youngest pupils to be assessed by the HSE if they need it. The Assessment of Need up until then was a right for every child under the age of 5. Now it isn’t.
Rather than fighting against this, I think it would be better to expand NEPS to be the first port of call for any child in primary school. Any child could be referred to NEPS by the school and there would be a guarantee (following some sort of automated screening) that the child would be seen within 4-6 weeks. NEPS could then recommend any educational supports and also refer to other services such as OT, SLT, etc. However, the first port of call would be NEPS.
As stated in Idea 5, NEPS could also take over from the NCSE, which really needs to be scrapped. Here’s a graphic representation of the idea.
Furthermore, I think we could extend NEPS to allocate resources for schools altogether.
All schools could have base of SET time for providing resource hours. The current system for baselines is based on the number of teachers. I would change this to children. For every 75 children, there should be a full-time SET teacher hired. This is more generous than the current baseline.
After that, where there are children presenting with additional needs, NEPS would assess and allocate extra hours on a case-by-case basis. NEPS to be completely independent of DES and should sort of work the same way as Medmark does for teachers and SNAs.
Let’s say we have a school of 120 pupils – their baseline is 1.6 SET teachers, rounding to 1.75. Now, this school has identified 12 pupils (about 10% of their population) and NEPS has decided that this would require 24 hours per week. This would be rounded up to the nearest 0.25 of a teacher so we are left with 1 SET teacher. This school’s total SET team would be 2.75 teachers.