Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Thomas Byrne TD has slammed the Government for the haphazard manner in which it is assigning special needs resources to schools.

The Government is already one month behind schedule in allocating Special Needs Assistants (SNAs). The delay is making it difficult for management at schools to adequately plan for the year ahead while SNAs remain unsure whether they have a job to return to.

Deputy Byrne said, “The Government’s treatment of people employed as SNAs is reprehensible and completely lacking in respect. The school year officially ended last Friday yet management at schools still do not know how many SNAs they will be allocated for next September or even if they can retain their current staff. This also means that people employed as SNAs do not know whether they will be employed next year or not.

“The allocation of SNAs has been delayed by the Government for a month now. The situation is creating unnecessary hardship as things have been left down to the wire. I expect that many SNAs cannot live with this unemployment uncertainty and are making plans for alternative employment for next year. I raised this issue in the Dáil earlier this afternoon with the Taoiseach. He agreed with me that the current situation is unacceptable. This is a damning indictment of Minister Bruton’s handling of this matter.

“Equally schools and school boards have been left in a bind. Since Schools are now closed for the summer they have been left in a position where it is impossible to plan and recruit staff for next year. Volunteer Boards of Management do not normally meet over the summer but must now be called back to ratify appointments, which can present difficulties such as ensuring a quorum is met.

“It’s remarkable that the Department sanctions schools for missing deadlines, but there are no consequences whatsoever if the Department misses deadlines. It should be remembered that the Department take their lead from the top. It is up to Minister Bruton to take the lead and set priorities.

“Unfortunately it seems that ensuring schools receive adequate special needs resources simply is not a priority for Minister Bruton and his colleagues.”