Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Charlie McConalogue has expressed concern following the announcement by the Education Minister that she is to carry out a review of the SNA scheme.  The scheme, which was introduced by Fianna Fáil, saw the number of Special Needs Assistants increase progressively from fewer than 300 in 1997 to 8,401 in 2010.

Deputy McConalogue commented, “Following sustained pressure from Fianna Fáil, Minister Jan O’Sullivan has finally relented and announced additional SNA posts for the year ahead, however she has also attached a review of the SNA system to the scheme.  This raises serious questions about the Minister’s commitment to these new posts into the future.

“It is extremely important that the Minister fully endorses these SNA appointments and is not using them as a one year only election gimmick.  These posts are integral in the educational development of children with special needs.  However, this Government does not have a good track record when it comes to special needs education given that it cut resource teaching hours and has been slow in approving additional SNA allocations to cope with increased demand.

“While the announcement of these new posts is welcome, it is incumbent on the Minister to ensure that they are allocated without delay.  This year SNAs across the country began their summer holidays without knowing whether they would have a job to come back to in September.  This is an unprecedented and wholly unacceptable situation which should never again be allowed happen.  SNAs are an essential part of the school environment and should be treated with respect and dignity.  They play an important role in the education and well-being of children in all classes and are a valuable resource for parents, teachers and children alike.

“I am urging the Minister to ensure that all SNAs are contacted as soon as possible so that they have enough time to plan for September and beyond”.