Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education and Skills Thomas Byrne has criticised the Government for its delay in allocating Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools across the country.
Deputy Byrne says the delays, which are occurring on a yearly basis, are leading to deep uncertainty for schools, parents and people employed as SNAs.
Deputy Byrne said, “Each year, school principals and boards of management are faced with the charade of waiting to hear whether or not the Minister of the day decides to announce allocations to meet additional special needs that arise as a result of demographic increases and increases in individual students’ assessed needs in their schools.
“This year was a case in point. The Minister held out until the very last minute, until after the end of the school year, before announcing this demographic allocation. I have raised this issue with the Government on a number of occasions and yesterday I pressed the Taoiseach in the Dáil to announce the allocations without any further delay.
“Its high-time that this annual political charade is put to an end.
“Special Needs allocations have to be given greater predictability and announced before the end of the school year so school management can plan and parents can be given assurances. More importantly, Schools and Parents have to be given back confidence in the system of ‘automatic response’.
“The policy, put in place by Fianna Fáil in 1998, meant that for the first time a child with a special educational need had the right to additional teaching or care supports in a school. However this policy was deeply eroded under the last government. Former Minster Quinn in particular launched an assault on the policy of automatic response.
“Schools also cannot properly plan their special education provision due to the uncertainty surrounding the programme each year. This also means that people employed as SNAs do not know whether they can be retained the following September; a level of employment uncertainty that many excellent SNAs just cannot live with.
“The SNA allocation model needs to be looked at, as it is not providing the best outcomes for children. At the very least, we need NCSE forecasts of future demands and announcements of school allocations to happen earlier in the year.
“While this would deprive Fine Gael of a political opportunity for them to be seen dishing out the largesse, it would reduce administration burden on schools, give people employed as SNAs some employment security and reassure parents that their child’s right to special needs education will be met.”