A union representing thousands of special needs assistants says it has encountered at least 100 cases where potential SNA posts have been filled through the JobBridge scheme.
Impact, in a submission to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection, said only experienced SNAs could deliver the maximum educational and social benefits to children with special needs.
“Impact supports quality work experience programmes as a means of enhancing skills and providing a valuable first step into the world of work.
“However, some employers in the education sector are misusing JobBridge. Much greater care is needed in vetting the places on offer and ensuring that JobBridge is not used as a substitute for employment,” it said.
The union said that it had encountered a “worrying and growing trend” of supplementing or replacing SNA posts with work experience posts with at least 100 cases being brought to its attention.
It said it had provided the Department of Social Protection with a number of possible approaches to help it effectively monitor JobBridge positions.
Impact has also called for a review of the educational and training requirements of new and existing SNAs.
It also wants consideration to be given to developing Fetac-level qualification requirements or an appropriate apprenticeship approach to improve and maintain training standards in the role.
The union said it wants a programme of continuous SNA professional development “to add value for children and their schools, while giving added stimulation and a greater sense of worth to SNAs”.
The Oireachtas submission also criticised the casualisation of the role of classroom-based SNAs, which is rooted in the practice of making them redundant when the child they assist leaves school, rather than allocating them another child or placing them on a panel of experienced SNAs to be available when new needs arise.
It said that it is “imperative” that a panel system, which is a requirement of the Haddington Road agreement, should be fully operational “well before the end of the 2013-2014 school year”.
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