Thursday 19 September 2019

Primary school children are self-harming, teachers' conference told

Stock photo
Stock photo
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Children of primary school age are self-harming, the annual conference of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) heard.

Sinead O’Sullivan, a teacher in Dublin and a delegate at the conference, said teachers were seeing it and it was “extremely distressing”.

The conference was debating a motion calling for better support for children with special educational needs and mental health difficulties. Delegates noted that a mental health issue was a special educational need under legislation.

Ms O’Sullivan said “we need targeted and specialised services and therapies to be made readily available for school children.”

Alice O’Donnell, a member of the INTO’s Education Committee, said they were “not trained, not supported and not resourced to support pupils who are experiencing mental health issues”.

In relation to special educational needs generally, there was criticism of the current review process for teacher allocations for these pupils, which happens every two years.

It does not provide for children diagnosed with additional needs between reviews to be added to the school’s allocation, the conference heard.

Delegates called on the Department Education to introduce an annual mechanism for reporting newly identified and diagnosed special educational needs.

They also deplored  what the INTO describes as a  lack of timely assessment and admission of children in distress by health service authorities and called for a concerted effort  to reduce waiting lists for assessments and improve access to appropriate therapies.

A motion adopted by the conference also called for schools to be provided with sufficient specialised services for children presenting with mental health Issues to meet their ongoing needs.

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