Psychological assessment at school
What is a psychological assessment?
A psychological assessment can help find out if your child has special needs at school.
The school will involve a psychologist only after they have considered the child’s needs.
If your child has learning, emotional or behavioural difficulties, the school your child attends is responsible for getting an assessment of your child’s needs. The assessment will help the school to plan your child’s education and remedial intervention.
You can read about the process schools use to consider the special education needs of a child.
Pilot counselling programme in primary schools
The Department of Education has set up a pilot counselling programme to a small number of primary schools in 7 counties. The counselling service provided under the pilot programme is not a substitute for the HSE Primary Care Psychology service or CAMHS. It does not replace NEPS within a school. School staff with the support of NEPS can refer children to the service for up to 6 counselling sessions. This will be done in consultation and with the consent of parents, but parents cannot refer their child directly to the programme. There is more information for children about the counselling programme and information for parents about the counselling programme.
How is a child selected for a psychological assessment?
If a teacher thinks that your child has difficulty coping with the normal curriculum, you should be made aware of this.
Before getting a psychological assessment for a child, school staff should consider supplementary teaching.
If the school decides that an assessment is needed for your child, the principal or teacher should arrange a meeting with you as the parent or legal guardian.
The reasons for the assessment should be discussed and each section of the consent form for psychological assessment - form 1 (pdf) explained before you are asked to sign the form.
Psychologists who carry out assessments must meet with you, explain their findings and give you a copy of the psychological report.
Psychological assessments in schools are provided by the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS).
You can get a NEPS information leaflet for parents (pdf).
Who does the psychological assessment?
The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) provides psychological services in public and private primary and post-primary schools and in related educational centres.
You can read more about NEPS services in the booklet Working Together to Make a Difference to Children (pdf) on gov.ie.
NEPS is located in 8 regions. It works with schools to:
- Engage in individual casework with children and young people
- Provide a consultation service for teachers and parents
- Participate in school-based projects relevant to educational psychology
- Promote mental health in schools
If your school does not have a service from NEPS they can use the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessment (SCPA).
What is the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA)
If your school is not located in a region with a NEPS service, they can use the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessment (SCPA).
The SCPA helps schools to meet the urgent need for psychological advice while the NEPS service is being expanded to all schools. Only psychologists named in the current list are eligible to carry out work under the SCPA scheme. You can read further information on the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA).
Protection of your child's interests
Psychological assessment services are in place so that children with special learning needs can take advantage of the necessary resources. However, some children will be nervous at the thought of meeting a psychologist. 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.
NEPS provides advice on whether you should tell your child that their learning needs will be assessed by a psychologist.
For the protection of your child's confidentiality, they are referred to by their 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 your child's school, where the surroundings are familiar. A separate room in the main building and near the school office is an ideal venue.
Who pays for a psychological assessment?
NEPS makes a payment 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 can claim tax relief on medical expenses after the year has ended. You can get more information on Revenue’s website.
How to apply for a psychological assessment
Children are normally referred to NEPS through the school principal. You should discuss any concerns regarding learning difficulties with school personnel first. If you have questions about the NEPS service and assessments, you should make them directly to school personnel.
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 (pdf).