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Psychological services for schools

Information

The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) provides psychological services in public and private primary and post-primary schools and in related educational centres. NEPS is a service of the Department of Education and Skills (DES) and aims to support the personal, social and educational development of all children through the application of psychological theory and practice in education. It has particular regard for children with special educational needs.

NEPS aims are to:

  • Provide direct contact and services to young people needing the support of an educational psychologist
  • Provide a consultancy service aimed at developing competencies and the effective use of educational resources
  • Develop a service model that caters for support and development, assessment and systems work
  • Provide the Minister for Education and Skills with advice and support and to influence educational policy
  • Develop effective communication with other sections of the Department of Education and Skills and other bodies that deliver services to children
  • Follow the best practice in educational psychology in conducting research.

You can read further information about how NEPS services are operated in the booklet Working Together to Make a Difference to Children (pdf) on the DES website.

NEPS was established in September 1999 and began a process of developing a local and accessible psychological service for all schools.

Budget 2011 capped the number of psychologists employed by NEPS at the current level of 178.

The psychologists employed by NEPS are located in 10 regions throughout the country. They work directly with a number of schools and their work includes:

  • Engaging in individual casework with children and young people
  • Providing a consultation service for teachers and parents
  • Participating in school-based projects relevant to educational psychology
  • Promoting mental health in schools

Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments

Schools which do not have a service from NEPS can use the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessment (SCPA). This is an interim measure funding schools to meet the urgent needs for psychological advice while the NEPS service is being expanded to all schools. The psychologists on the panel for the scheme are not employed directly by NEPS. They are in private practice and have satisfied NEPS that they are members of their professional association and have experience in the individual assessment of children. Further information on the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessment (SCPA) is available.

How should children be selected for individual psychological assessment?

In general, teachers will have noticed those children who have difficulty in coping with the normal curriculum. Parents should be made aware of any difficulties being experienced by their child in school, long before there is any question of a psychological assessment. If required, parents should be encouraged to make arrangements for a check up on the child's general health, hearing and sight.

Before commissioning an individual psychological assessment for a child, school staff should explore the avenue of supplementary teaching.

If the school decides that an assessment is required for a particular child, the principal or a nominated teacher should arrange a personal interview with both parents and/or legal guardians.

The reasons for the assessment should be discussed and each section of the consent form for psychological assessment - form 1 (pdf) explained before both parents are asked to sign the form. If one parent has legal custody, that signature will suffice. However, the parent without legal custody should also be made aware of the referral.

Psychologists who carry out assessments under this scheme are required to meet the parents. They will explain their findings to the parents and will give them a copy of the psychological report.

You can get a NEPS information leaflet for parents (pdf).

The protection of children's interests

Although this scheme is in place so that children with special learning needs may take advantage of the necessary resources, many children will grow nervous at the thought of meeting a psychologist.

It should also be kept in mind that if a child is aware that they have difficulties at school, the prospect of a meeting with a psychologist may confirm to them a perceived weakness. For this reason, a school should only commission an individual assessment if, having spoken with the child's parents, it is absolutely convinced that the result will benefit the child.

The assessment process should be explained to the child in advance both by parents and by a teacher who is well known to her/him.

One recommended course of action is that the assessment be described to the child as "a meeting with a specialist", the purpose of which is to find out what the child is good at, what he or she finds difficult in school and so on. It may be described as "a kind of lesson where a number of different activities will be tried out, many of which are puzzles and games and will be enjoyable".

Young children may also need to be reassured that there will be no medical procedures such as injections.

For the protection of the child's confidentiality, he or she is referred to by his or her initials only in all documentation submitted by school authorities to NEPS.

All psychologists on the NEPS panel must have obtained Garda clearance. It is also recommended that a member of the school staff look in on the assessment interview once or twice.

In general, an assessment should be carried out in the child's school, where the surroundings are familiar. A separate room in the main building and near the school office is an ideal venue.

Rules

The following may commission psychological assessments under the NEPS scheme:

  • Schools that do not have access to the service provided by NEPS.
  • NEPS Regional Directors who have some additional, but limited, discretion to meet exceptional circumstances arising in their regions.

Rates

Payment by NEPS is made directly to the psychologist. NEPS does not reimburse schools or parents for assessments.

NEPS cannot reimburse you if you are a parent who has commissioned a private psychological assessment. In this case, you may gain tax relief for such payments using Form MED 1 (pdf)

How to apply

Children are normally referred to NEPS through the school principal. Parents should discuss any concerns regarding learning difficulties with school personnel in the first instance. Questions about the NEPS service and assessments should be made directly to school personnel.
If your school does not yet have access to the Scheme For Commissioning Psychological Assessment, your principal should:

  • Identify and select children who appear to be in need of psychological assessment
  • Obtain informed consent in writing from the parents or legal guardians of the children concerned, using form 1.
  • Complete a referral form (form 2) for assessment.
  • Approach a psychologist on the NEPS panel to carry out the assessment/s.

In order that payment can be made for psychological assessments, Form 3 must be completed by your school's principal and submitted to NEPS. With this form, your school's principal must include an invoice from the relevant psychologist certifying:

  • That the assessment has been completed,
  • That the psychological report has been received by the principal
  • That all procedures required by NEPS have been complied with.

On receipt of Form 3, the NEPS will arrange for payment to be made directly to the psychologist. (All the forms are available from the Department of Education and Skills website.

In general, you apply for NEPS services through the school principal of your child's school. You can find contact information for the NEPS offices in Ireland.

Where to apply

National Educational Psychological Service

Frederick Court
24-27 North Frederick St
Dublin 1
Ireland

Tel:(01) 889 2700
Fax:(01) 889 2755
Email: neps@education.gov.ie


Page updated: 9 December 2010

Language

Gaeilge

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