The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) was formally established as an executive agency of the then Department of Education and Science (DES) in September 1999.
NEPS is currently organised into 8 regions, roughly corresponding to those of the Health Service Executive (HSE). It has teams of psychologists to help schools deal with issues surrounding behaviour, learning, social and emotional development. Individual NEPS psychologists are assigned to groups of schools but as of yet, not every school has one assigned to them!
The mission statement of NEPS is “to work with others to support the personal, social and educational development of all children through the application of psychological theory and practice in education, having particular regard for children with special educational needs”.
NEPS has a consultative approach when supporting schools. The focus is on empowering teachers to intervene effectively with pupils whose needs range from ‘mild to severe and transient to enduring’. If a student’s special educational needs are severe and/or persistent, they are likely to need intensive support. This will generally involve personnel outside the school team in the problem solving, assessment and intervention process.
NEPS encourages schools to use a continuum based assessment and intervention process. This means that schools take responsibility for initial assessments, educational planning and remedial intervention for pupils with learning, emotional or behavioural difficulties.
Teachers can work with their school’s NEPS psychologist, on a consultative basis, should they need to at this stage in the process. If the student does not make reasonable progress, in spite of the school’s best efforts in consultation with NEPS, only then will the psychologist become involved with an individual child for intensive intervention.
At this point, the recommendation may be to for the student to undergo a psychological assessment. This will identify any social, behavioural or specific learning difficulties the child may have or perhaps uncover a gifted student whose abilities may be masked by other issues. Written parental consent has to be given before any assessment is undertaken.
NEPS is not just involved in educational assessment. It also provides assistance to every school that experiences critical incidents. These incidents generally arise due to the death through illness, accident or sometimes suicide of a pupil, however NEPS can also be called in to help schools when a community experiences a catastrophic event.
Occasionally, a school may not have a designated NEPS psychologist for a variety of reasons. The Scheme for the Commissioning of Psychological Assessments (SCPA) provides funding to schools to commission individual psychological assessments of students from psychologists who work in private practice. All SCPA assessments must be sanctioned in advance by a NEPS psychologist or by the local NEPS Regional Director. The SCPA scheme is not a substitute for a full educational psychological service of the sort provided by NEPS. It is an interim measure intended to supplement the NEPS service and meet current urgent needs for psychological assessment of children and young people. The operation of the scheme is reviewed on an ongoing basis by NEPS/DES. Only psychologists listed in the current SCPA Panel are eligible to carry out work under the SCPA scheme.
All information gathered by NEPS is confidential and comes under both the Data Protection Act and The Freedom of Information Act. This means that parents can access all notes and records if they want to. Parents receive copies of all reports written by the NEPS psychologists. These are only shared with schools or other agencies with the written consent of the parents.
Like many government agencies, NEPS experiences long delays in accessing their services. NEPS Assessments are free but are usually limited to a small number per school. School principals have the unenviable task of deciding who needs the assessment most and so might for example reserve these for children whose standardised scores are below the 10th percentile. In practice this means that children who are struggling, but above the ‘cut-off point’, and gifted children on the other end of the spectrum, are rarely offered an assessment. The alternative is for parents to have an educational assessment done privately. This is expensive but tax relief is available through the Med 1 tax form.
The NEPS psychologist can only make a recommendation for extra resource hours for your child; the local SENO (Special Education Needs Organiser) actually makes the decision. This sometimes means that despite having completed an assessment, very little extra resources are available to the student. Parents can feel that they are now back at square one!
For more information on how we help struggling students (and adults) contact us at:
Hummingbird Learning Centre 087 2996054 www.hummingbirdlearning.com