Richard Bruton promises increase in special needs assistants

Education Minister Richard Bruton has promised that no child in the country will be left without a special needs assistant by year end. He made the pledge as he announced existing funds will be used to place another 860 special needs assistants in schools in the new academic year.

Richard Bruton promises increase in special needs assistants

A review of the special needs assistants’ scheme will also be carried out, the minister announced: “Diagnostic methods have changed, we know more about needs of how children progress. It’s appropriate we view this on how to make things better, so kids get on better and make more progress and get better outcomes in the education system.”

Asked if the announcement of the special needs assistants would ensure every child who needs one would get one, the minister replied: “It does, absolutely.”

The extra 860 additional special needs assistants will be made available between September and December this year, he said. This will bring to 12,900 the total number of assistants.

Mr Bruton’s officials said the cost for the new assistants would be up to €9m for the remainder of this year but would be more next year.

Asked where money for the new assistants will come from, Mr Bruton said he would find it within his existing budget.

The INTO welcomed the appointment of the extra special needs assistants to primary schools to meet increased enrolments of children with special needs.

The union also welcomed the timing, which gives schools time to start an appointment process where this is required

. The new assistants will complement an increase in resource teachers — also going ahead in the autumn.

The INTO said the extra assistants represent a 7% rise in the number of special needs assistants; bringing the number in primary schools to 7,709 — a rise of 470 on the end of this school year. The Department of Education said, overall, the increase will bring to 12,900 the number of special needs assistants in all schools. This will cost €425m annually.

The separate review of special needs in schools will be carried out by the National Council for Special Education. Schools will be notified of their SNA allocations for the next year. Details will also be published on ncse.ie.

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