- Mr Beggs asked the Minister of Education for his assessment of the current number of educational psychologists available to produce statements of special educational needs. (AQO 6580/11-15)
Mr O’Dowd: The most recent staffing survey across the education and library boards (ELBs) indicated that 166 educational psychologists are available across the five board areas. All the ELBs have recently reported that, in the overwhelming majority of cases, they are meeting their legislative target to complete the statutory assessment and statementing process within 26 weeks, subject to valid exceptions.
In addition, my Department continues to provide financial assistance each year for the doctorate in educational child and adolescent psychology (DECAP) course at Queen’s University, a course that provides an output of six graduates each academic year. In October 2013, the DECAP steering group discussed the need for an increase in DECAP intake. However, after further discussions with the chief executive officers of the Belfast Education and Library Board and the South Eastern Education and Library Board, it was decided that that would not be necessary.
Mr Beggs: I thank the Minister for his answer, but does he not accept that a 26-week target is half a year of a child’s education and an unacceptable delay? Will he ensure that there is a much faster process and that the multi-agency support team for schools, which is available to only some young people in some primary schools in my constituency, will be available to everyone so that all have the best opportunity to reach their full potential?
Mr O’Dowd: One of the reasons why I have been working through an education Bill is to reduce the timescale, admittedly to the maximum of 20 weeks, but I also want to ensure that the identification of special educational needs takes place much earlier, that there is a joined-up response to the needs of a young person and that those children who have to move forward to the new statementing process will be identified much sooner, thus trying to avoid any damage being inflicted on their education because of a delay in the recognition of their needs.