The INTO is calling for age-appropriate mental-health supports to be funded for all children with mental health and emotional issues. The recent Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) report found that pupil wellbeing, as measured by feeling hungry or tired, or being bullied, had decreased since 2016.
Referrals to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) and other services rose by 40%. The INTO believes that the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) should be augmented, that the in-school and Early Years Therapy Support Demonstration Project should be reinstated and expanded and funding for the School Completion Programme increased.
Building on the on-site counselling pilot scheme proposed in Budget 2023 and announced in June 2023, we must ensure the nationwide rollout of these essential school supports. Additional supports such as nurture rooms are also needed in DEIS schools.
The Joint Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science report on Mental Health Supports in Schools and Tertiary Education, published in January 2023, called for the establishment of a national mental-health programme for children and young people as a matter of urgency.
In particular, the committee argued that this programme should consider the establishment of mental-health supports on-site in schools – a key call by this union. It is vital that a grant of €20 per pupil for school-based mental-health supports, such as on-site counselling services be provided from September 2024.
This proposal would cost €3.7 million in Budget 2024 and €11m in a full year.
It was estimated that this would cost €3.7 million from September to December 2023 and €11m per annum thereafter. There are currently 554,788 primary pupils (Education Indicators for Ireland, February 2023). At a cost of €20 per pupil, this proposal would cost €11m per annum.