Quinn to ask Cabinet for 400 special needs assistants in schools
EDUCATION Minister Ruairi Quinn is going to seek Cabinet approval today to hire another 400 special needs assistants next year to cope with rising demands.
He needs to get permission to breach the annual cap on special needs assistants (SNAs), which is currently set at 10,575.
The demand for SNAs has increased this year due to rising pupil numbers.
SNAs help children with special needs with tasks such as toileting and feeding. About one in four pupils, with conditions ranging from dyslexia to autism, need extra support.
The prospect of extra SNAs being provided will be welcomed by parents and teachers, who have been lobbying for an increase in the numbers employed.
Mr Quinn's consistent position has been that every child who needs an SNA will be provided with one. He has said already in the Dail that it may be the case that additional SNA posts will be required for the current school year
The cap on SNAs was introduced in 2010 by the previous Fianna Fail-led Government in the run up to the EU-IMF bailout and has remained in place ever since.
The Department of Education currently spends €1.3bn per year on special needs education – 15pc of its budget. This includes 10,575 SNAs, over 10,700 resource teachers and 740 special classes attached to mainstream schools.
The rising number of pupils has already led to 20 new primary schools and 20 new secondary schools being approved for construction.
Last June, Mr Quinn had to reverse a decision to implement cuts in the number of resource teachers for pupils with special educational needs.
The Cabinet agreed to maintain resource teaching time for pupils with complex disabilities, such as autism, at current levels.
Mr Quinn brought forward the allocation of 500 reserve resource teaching posts intended to meet demand that arises during the school year.
Mr Quinn's move followed a storm of protest from school managers, teacher unions, parents, groups representing children with disabilities, and from backbenchers and members of the opposition. The proposed cuts did not relate to SNAs.