1st February 2023
This page was updated on 3 February 2023 (see bottom of page).
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) has secured significant amendments, time allocation, support structures and a comprehensive review process following the six-month trialling of the Education Reporting Process for the purpose of completing an Assessment of Need (AON).
In October 2022, the union intervened to extend the trial process which had commenced in June of that year. During this extended trial period, the INTO consulted with members at branch and district meetings and engaged directly with school leaders attending our principal seminars. Feedback was also solicited from members engaged in the trial process.
Members expressed concern about perceived legal implications for teachers engaging with the reporting process; they noted a lack of dedicated time for completing the form, raised concerns in respect of workload and noted the NCSE’s failure to provide guidance and assistance, particularly in the case of requests for a large number of reports from any one school.
Members also sought clarification on any requirement for schools to seek parental consent prior to returning the forms to the NCSE.
Engaging with the Department of Education
On foot of this feedback, the INTO sought legal advice and impressed upon the Department of Education and the NCSE that the process required significant clarification. In particular, the union sought additional resourcing, detailed guidance documents, a comprehensive user-friendly set of FAQs and clearer communication from the NCSE and the Department of Education on the process.
What has happened today?
The Department of Education has today issued Information Note SE 0001/2023, which includes some twenty amendments as requested by the INTO.
What has changed?
The information note clarifies that the AON process is a HSE-led process. The Disability Act (2005) clearly sets out that legal responsibility for the AON process rests solely with the HSE. Within the Disability Act, the HSE may request the NCSE nominate a person to assist in completing the educational component of the AON report. Members are advised that this is not a clinical report. It requires the school to provide only the information they already have on a pupil’s file to the HSE assessment officer who uses all information available to them to assess what supports the HSE may need to provide.
At school level principal teachers may nominate themselves, deputy principals or other teaching colleagues to complete the relevant parts of the report form.
It is now evident that time will be allocated from the school SET resources for teachers nominated to assist with the completion of the form. During the extended trial period, and based on feedback to the INTO, the average time taken to complete a form ranged from 20-30 minutes. It is anticipated that the amended forms issued today will take less time to complete, as the emphasis is now placed on the transfer of current relevant material from the most up-to-date version of the student’s support file.
Where a school is requested to complete a large number of these forms and requires additional support beyond that provided in the guidance notes, video presentation and email support system, they are advised to contact the departmental telephone support line to access administrative or further specialist support.
Members are advised that there is no requirement for schools to seek parental consent prior to the return of these forms as the HSE obtains consent from parents/legal guardians prior to commencing the AON process.
What happens next?
Following extensive engagement with education stakeholders and officials from the Department of Education, the INTO has agreed to establish a monthly meeting to monitor the process, prior to a full review next June.
We urge members to continue to send feedback on their experiences of the new approach, and we will seek further supports as may be required.
While we welcome assurances received from the Department of Education that the new process for reporting of education needs will not be used as a replacement for assessments undertaken by educational psychologists and other health professionals, we once again highlight our members’ deep frustration at the inability of vulnerable children to access mental health and sensory supports in a timely manner.
The union is aware that there remains concern among the membership in respect of this new reporting process. The INTO will use the monthly monitoring meetings to continue to engage with the Department of Education and NCSE on behalf of our members.
A Help and Advice FAQ on the new AON process can be found here (member login required).