SNAs to play enhanced role in assessing children

SNAs to play enhanced role in assessing children

Special needs assistants (SNAs) are to be trained on how to better assess and support children in up to 75 schools in order to help reduce the need for external reviews of likely needs.

Education Minister Joe McHugh secured agreement for the pilot project, which will be rolled out in September across schools in Kildare, west Wicklow, and south and west Dublin.

Under the current system, parents can seek independent reviews of their children’s needs, including speech and language therapy requirements.

It can be an expensive process for families, Department of Education officials have conceded.

New proposals will see up to 950 SNAs trained so that pupils can have their needs addressed internally in the school.

The move will not prevent parents from also seeking an external review.

However, it is hoped the €2m pilot project will allow SNAs to identify and support children’s needs in a quicker and easier manner, said a spokesman for the minister.

Speech and language therapy, nursing care, and psychological services will be among the supports given to 75 schools to upskill and support SNAs. More details will be revealed later this month.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet yesterday condemned the weekend protest outside the Wicklow home of Health Minister Simon Harris.

Housing protesters, angered by the children’s hospital cost overrun, had to be moved on by gardaí.

“Concern” was expressed about the protest, said a Government spokesman.

While Cabinet yesterday discussed the hospital spend scandal, a spokeswoman for Independent Alliance ministers said that, when asked about cuts to budgets and departments, that they were “happy to act” in the interests of the hospital.

While ministers discussed the protest outside Mr Harris’ home, there was no new agreement on returning Garda drivers to ministers or upgrading any security arrangements following the Wicklow incident.

Elsewhere, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney updated the Cabinet on developments with Brexit. Both they and the ministers agreed to maintain the Government’s position on the withdrawal agreement and that it, including the backstop to prevent a hard border, should not be altered.

In the fifth update to Cabinet on a potential no-deal Brexit, Mr Varadkar outlined details of his dinner last week with British prime minister Theresa May. Ministers will continue to arrange contingency measures under the proposed Omnibus Bill which could come before the Dáil within two weeks.

The Cabinet also agreed legislation to resolve a number of difficulties in the registration of donor- assisted births.

It will now be possible for both partners in a female same-sex relationship to be registered as parents. Currently, only the details of one parent, the birth mother, can be included on certificates.

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