ANGRY special needs assistants (SNAs) and parents of children with special needs in Cork have promised a “summer of discontent”.
The National Council for Special Education wrote to hundreds of schools last week informing them of cuts to their SNA allowance for the next school year.
More than 100 people attended a public meeting in the Metropole Hotel in Cork last night to voice anger at the cuts.
Co-chairwoman Roisín O’Mahony, an SNA and parent of a child with ADHD, said it was time for people to come together and tell the Government “enough is enough”.
“Our children are losing out on their right to an education and our colleagues are losing their jobs. These cuts are going to be detrimental, not just to people with special needs, but to the whole class in general and the teachers that work with these kids.
“The time has come for people to stand up and be the voice of the children who can’t speak for themselves. They are targeting the most vulnerable people in our society and we have to come together and stop that,” she said.
Cork area representative for the Special Needs Parents Association Eoin Kelly said there would be a summer of discontent over the cuts.
“You will also have a lot of people not knowing throughout the summer and right up to the first week in September exactly how their child is going to be fixed or how they are going to be fixed with regards to a job or resource hours,” he said.
Education Minister Ruairí Quinn announced that 475 posts would be held back from primary and second level schools to cater for emergency applications, children who arrive into schools during the school year and pupils who will be newly-assessed with a disability or syndrome that qualifies them for SNA help.
The Department of Education already pays 10,802 SNAs, but must reduce this to 10,575 by the end of this year to remain within a staff ceiling imposed under the EU/IMF bailout.
The additional SNAs in place are mostly accounted for by the recognition of 13 new special schools catering for pupils with autism.
However, hundreds more children are expected to be eligible for the help of an SNA from the 10,000 pupils due into primary schools in September. This is likely to mean hundreds of children losing their SNA or having reduced access to help.
The meeting also heard sharp criticism of the National Council for Special Education and the lack of an appeals system.
While appeals of allocations of an SNA were previously open to parents and schools, the council said the recent allocations cannot be appealed until a revised system is devised.
However, this is not expected until at least half way through the first term.
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