Government agrees to extra 390 SNA posts

Almost 400 extra special needs assistants can be assigned to help children with disabilities at school after the Government agreed to lift a three-year-old cap on numbers.

The cap of 10,575 SNAs has been in place since the four-year plan agreed by the previous coalition with the Troika in late 2010, but has been maintained up to now by Education Minister Ruairi Quinn despite claims by parents and schools that children’s care needs were not being fully met. With rising demand for SNAs to meet children’s care needs, some schools have seen their allocations cut but the Department of Education has insisted the criteria for support have not changed.

The additional 390 SNA posts agreed by the Cabinet yesterday include 170 to be made available immediately in response to applications already made by schools to the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), which allocates special needs resources in accordance with department policy. Another 220 posts will be available next year but a cap will still be in place — albeit at a higher level of 10,965 SNAs at the end of 2014.

“Despite our economic difficulties, we need to support our children with special needs to achieve their full potential in school. This means there will be almost 11,000 SNAs available to provide support and care for children with special needs in primary, post-primary and special schools,” Mr Quinn said.

Impact trade union welcomed the sanction for extra SNAs and said they will go some way to meeting increased demand in schools.

“We hope it is also a sign that the casualisation of the SNA role is being addressed, ” said official Dessie Robinson.

The increased cap follows a similar change in relation to resource teacher numbers agreed by the Cabinet in June after initial allocations to schools would have seen weekly hours fall from 85% of pre-2011 levels to just 75%. The minister had to find extra funding to maintain last year’s level of provision, which meant a breach of the previous limit of 5,265 resource teachers the NCSE could allocate. A new system for allocating these staff is being devised by a working group after consultations with interested parties.

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