More than 10,000 children are currently on HSE waiting lists for mental health treatment, with more than 4,000 of them waiting more than a year for an appointment, primary school principals have heard at the annual conference network of Irish primary headteachers.

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The IPPN says that an increase in mental health problems in children is one of several key challenges facing school leaders today.

Its Chief Executive, Páiric Clerkin, told school heads at a meeting in Killarney that the needs of these children go far beyond what schools can provide and that damaging delays in service delivery are letting children down.

More than 1,000 primary school principals are expected to attend the first face-to-face meeting of IPPN members in almost three years.

The annual conference kicked off yesterday afternoon, with Education Minister Norma Foley addressing attendees on Friday morning.

Referring to the current staffing shortages in schools, Clerkin said a recent survey by IPPN found that more than a quarter of schools lack full staffing quotas.

He said the staffing crisis was a particular challenge in Dublin and surrounding counties, while the unavailability of substitute teachers was a national problem. Nearly two out of three schools in the capital are understaffed, he said.

“This has an impact on all children, but especially on the most vulnerable children in our schools. Many of our special education teachers are finding themselves placed in classrooms simply to keep schools open,” Mr Clerkin added, reports RTE.

The Department of Education has previously said that resources allocated to special education should not be used in this way.

The IPPN has called for the immediate restoration of the right of schools to “bank” hours when no replacement is available.

Regarding the opening of special classes, the IPPN has called for an amendment to the admissions legislation, which would allow schools to receive applications from children who have a recommendation for placement in a special class or school with two years of experience. anticipation.

Under current law, schools can only review applications and allocate places within 11 months of the requested school year.

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