- 40 Schools across Clondalkin and Lucan to participate in pilot bringing speech and language therapists and occupational therapists into schools and pre-schools
“I have been pushing for some time now to have a more integrated approach to our community health services and our Education system. Having therapists come to schools to provide the necessary interventions such as Speech and Language Therapy or Occupational Therapy seems a practical solution. Not only does it lessen the amount of time a child needs to be away from their classroom but it also allows the therapists and teachers to collaborate and more accurately meet the particular needs of an individual child.
“The provision of in-school Speech and Language services was a core commitment of my Party in the last election which we ensured was included in the Programme for Government. Following an initial announcement of the scheme in May, the local preschools, primary and post primary schools taking part in the pilot have been announced.
“Forty schools across Clondalkin and Lucan will take part in this exciting pilot during the 2018/19 school year. This includes twenty seven pre-schools, ten Primary and three Post-Primary schools.
“This pilot has the potential to change a child’s entire education. By placing such an emphasis locally on our pre-schools in particular, this pilot will ensure that issues can be identified and addressed before they become a barrier to a child’s learning.
“It will also build on the work already undertaken by schools to accommodate various levels of educational need. For example, participating schools such as Phobailscoil Iosolde, St. Peter’s Apostle, Lucan Educate Together and Our Lady Queen of Apostles all have ASD Units on site and are experienced with how to integrate children who may have additional needs with their peers.
Detailing the pilot project, Deputy Fitzgerald explained:
“This project sees the coming together of our State bodies and the Departments of Education and Children. It has been developed by the Department of Education and Skills in conjunction with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, the Department of Health and the HSE. €2.25m is being allocated to Phase One of the project in 2018 which will be managed and coordinated by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE).
“This funding will see 150 schools involved in the pilot with an additional 19 speech and language therapists and 12 Occupational Therapists recruited across the country. The NCSE will also recruit 2 National Co-ordinators to manage the project.
“The first phase of this pilot will see a focus on early intervention and providing professional training and guidance for school staff, giving parents the tools and encouragement to help with their children’s communication skills at home and creating better linkages between a child’s school and home environments with their required therapy and developmental supports.
“Both Speech and Language and Occupational Therapists will deliver services in school to children who require additional assistance. This in-school service is intended to complement the existing HSE funded essential therapy services and target Speech and Language issues as they arise.”
Fitzgerald also paid tribute to the work of all the various stakeholders in this project, stating:
“Getting all these bodies to coordinate and work together has taken a lot of work but is clearly the best way forward. By bringing together all the interested parties, we can deliver a better and more efficient support system for our children. It has involved the HSE working with the Departments of Children and Youth Affairs, Health and Education and Skills. I appreciate the efforts of our local HSE and schools in bringing this pilot to Clondalkin and Lucan areas.
“This pilot has the potential to be life-changing for some children. By placing therapists in our schools we can immediately intervene and support a child’s individual learning needs, affecting their entire experience with the education system.
I look forward to seeing how this pilot progresses in the upcoming school year and how best we can open this out to more schools in the future,” concluded Fitzgerald.