Schools to get 800 new special needs assistants

Schools set to receive confirmation of individual allocations from midday on Monday

There will be a record 15,950 special needs assistants in school in the coming year, supporting about 37,500 pupils.

There will be a record 15,950 special needs assistants in school in the coming year, supporting about 37,500 pupils.

 

Almost 800 new special needs assistants are to be allocated to schools from September.

The increased allocation reflects the fact that record numbers of children with special or additional needs are in mainstream education, as well as earlier diagnosis of underlying conditions.

The announcement means there will be a record 15,950 special needs assistants in school in the coming year, supporting about 37,500 pupils.

Schools are set to receive confirmation of their allocations from the National Council for Special Education over the course of Monday. They will also be available on the council’s website (www.ncse.ie) from midday.

Minister for Education Joe McHugh confirmed the additional allocations that will apply from September.

Under a new school inclusion model, the role of the SNA is set to broaden out from supporting care needs – such as toileting and feeding – to assisting with delivery of speech and language or occupational therapy.

The approach is being piloted in 75 schools in Kildare and Wicklow from next September.

If successful, it could lead to changes being applied to all SNAs, though unions have warned that this will require training and a renegotiation of members’ pay rates.

Mr McHugh said “good progress” was being made in developing the new inclusion model which aims to provide better outcomes for students with additional needs.

“I look forward to applying this new model of support and the opportunity it affords for review and evaluations to ensure we are providing the most effective and efficient service to students in our schools who require additional supports.”

Increase

This latest allocation represents a 50 per cent increase in the number of SNAs who were working in schools in 2011.

Spending on special education now stands at about €1.9 billion, or a fifth of the overall education budget.

The scale of investment has previously prompted concern within the Department of Public Expenditure over “rapidly escalating costs” and the fact that more is spent on special needs than higher education.

However, Mr McHugh has welcomed the fact that more children with special educational needs than ever before are participating in school.

“Our education system is increasingly better equipped to support children with special needs and support their full participation and progression,” he said.

“SNAs are the bedrock of Government supports for children with special needs. It is their work day in, day out that is key to helping ensure that children can go to school and participate in education.”

The Minister added: “Special needs assistants are vital to the work of a school. They are dedicated, caring and hugely important in ensuring the Government can meet its goal of supporting children with special needs and helping them to reach their potential.

“I would like to take this opportunity to pay credit to the fantastic work that they do.”

Until recently, SNA allocations were announced over the summer months, which led to uncertainty among schools, SNAs and parents.

However, the earlier announcement is aimed at ensuring parents and children know of the allocation in good time for the start of the next school year.