Minister McHugh Announces Trial of a New School Inclusion Model to Provide the Right Supports at the Right Time to students with Additional Needs 
The Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh T.D. today announced the trialling of the School Inclusion Model – a new model of support for students with special educational and additional care needs. 
The School Inclusion Model, supported by €4.75m funding allocated in Budget 2019, aims to build schools’ capacity to include children with additional needs and to provide other supports for pupils including speech and language, occupational therapy and behaviour support. 
The achievement of better education and life outcomes for all children including those with special needs is a key element of Government policy. 
75 schools, both primary and post-primary, in Kildare, Wicklow and South Dublin will be invited to participate in this new research-based package of education and health supports to be piloted and evaluated in the 2019/20 school year. 
The Model has been developed in light of policy advice provided by the National Council for Special Education which is playing a leading role in the development and management of the pilot. 
The model is a collaboration across the Departments of Education and Skills, Health, and Children and Youth Affairs, as well as the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) and the Health Service Executive (HSE). 
The pilot will inform future policy on how best to support young people with additional needs and determine if the new supports lead to better outcomes for children and if so, how they should be rolled out nationally. 
Minister McHugh said: “Inclusion and access are a core value of our education system.  We want every child to have the opportunity to learn and develop as well as they can and to get the supports they need to do that.  The trial of this innovative School Inclusion Model will test and evaluate a broader and more holistic suite of education and health supports for children with special and additional care needs. 
Quality outcomes and meaningful inclusion for children with additional needs are achieved by having quality school staff including teachers and special needs assistants, effective leadership, parental involvement and well developed policy and practice in schools.   
I am pleased that the model does not require a formal diagnosis for access to SNA support.  This is an important step towards a needs-based model, similar to what we have in the allocation of special education teachers.” 
Minister of State for Disability Issues Finian McGrath T.D. said:

“I am very happy to support this new initiative to deliver additional supports to help children achieve their full potential. 

This new model will complement community provision for children with additional needs and allow health care professionals to work with schools and teachers in a setting familiar to children.”   
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr. Katherine Zappone T.D. said: “I am extremely supportive of this new Model of School Inclusion and believe that its findings will be useful in determining the best path forward for inclusive support. 
There has already been great collaboration across disciplines in the early years’ sector with the AIM model and I look forward to seeing the results of this pilot project and how they can be applied in future for the benefit of all children with additional needs.” 
The package of supports in the School Inclusion Model includes the following key elements: 

  • A new frontloaded allocation model of Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to be allocated in line with profiled need, thus breaking the link with the requirement for an assessment.

  • The expansion of the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) to provide a more intensive support service for pilot schools. Additional psychologists will be recruited, for the period of the pilot in the pilot area, to facilitate greater access by schools and students to the full range of in-school supports available to students with complex educational needs. 

    ·         The development of a National Training Programme for special needs assistants, to provide them with the  necessary skills and knowledge to support students with additional care needs arising from significant medical, physical, emotional/behavioural, sensory, communication and other significant difficulties that pose a barrier to participating in school life. Training will also emphasise the need for students to develop independence and resilience to the greatest possible extent in line with their individual abilities and age.

    ·         The provision of a national nursing service for children with complex medical needs in schools. A cross agency planning group is to be established to develop the scope for the scheme, develop an application procedure for schools and plan for how the service is to be delivered. The new service will complement current provision provided through community based services.
    ·         Establishment, on a pilot basis, of a new Regional Support Team for schools, under the auspices of the NCSE, in the Community Healthcare Organisation area (CHO 7) to include specialists in speech and language; occupational therapy and behaviour practitioners. The team will include 4 Speech and Language Therapists, 2 Occupational Therapists and 4 Behaviour Support practitioners. A further 19 Speech and Language Therapists and 12 Occupational Therapists will deliver supports within schools.

    ·         Consultation with schools, teachers and parents. 

The In-School Demonstration Project and the subsequent Pilot School Inclusion Project were established following research by the NCSE which drew attention to the need for a more broadly-based set of education and health supports to help children with additional needs achieve their potential through education. 
Research indicates that evidence-based interventions that are carefully planned and evaluated stand the best chance of success. Consultation is also key. 
The NCSE recommended that a better model of support was required, one which provides the right support at the right time provided by a range of personnel with relevant qualification and skill sets. 

Currently €1.75 bn or 19% of the total education budget funds a range of supports including additional special needs teachers and SNAs.  Because of this level of expenditure, the number of children with special needs receiving an education in schools whether through mainstream, special classes and special schools has increased greatly in recent years.  The active support of school communities including teachers and boards of management must be acknowledged in this regard. 

Minister McHugh said:  “The trialling of new approaches, learning from evidence and collaboration between different disciplines to achieve the best outcomes is at the heart of this pilot. I would like to thank all of those who are engaging in this new way, in seeking better outcomes for our children. I hope sincerely that this this pilot of the School Inclusion Model achieves its aims and that we can learn from it and build on it into the future.”