Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Thomas Byrne TD has warned the Government that any delays in allocating Special Needs Assistants (SNA’s) to schools next summer will not be acceptable. Deputy Byrne made the comments after it was announced that an additional 1,090 SNA positions are being allocated following Budget 2018.
Last summer schools faced significant delays with the allocation of SNA’s. The delay meant that SNAs were only allocated to children well after schools were closed for the summer. The delay this year was particularly bad but delays are occurring on a yearly basis, and 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 changes 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 I am demanding that this budgetary announcement is put into place well before next summer’s school holidays.
“The SNA allocation 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.
“Schools 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 demand, which has been promised but we haven’t got yet. Although 1091 extra SNAs are budgeted now for next year, we have no way of knowing whether this is too little, too much, or just enough to meet rising population.