Wednesday 21 February 2018

Fighting cuts to Special Needs Assistants

Cuts to Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) caused outrage this month as parents and teachers joined forces to persuade the Department of Education and Skills (DES) to reverse its decision to cap the number of SNAs at 10,575.

SNAs provide non-teaching assistance for students with disabilities. However, an educational element has been introduced to some SNA positions and earlier this year, over 200 Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) tutors were reclassified as SNAs when pilot schools for autism became fully fledged specialist schools. These tutors are unhappy about their new classification, as many hold third- and fourth-level degrees, whereas an SNA needs only a Junior Cert qualification.

The report raised concerns about the role of the SNA which, it says, has "been extended far beyond the scheme's objectives". It recommends that the role be clearly defined and applied consistently.

It also recommends that a review process be put in place to ensure that SNA support is reduced or withdrawn according to students' needs.

"The remit of the SNA has been stretched over the years and the DES report recognises that there is a need for another type of position to be created, so that SNAs can concentrate on the care needs of children," says Lorraine Dempsey, spokesperson for the Special Needs Parents Association (SPNA).

"Hopefully, it will lead to greater consistency in the way SNAs are deployed. My seven-year-old daughter Rianna, who has cerebral palsy, attends a mainstream school. She has a full-time SNA and five resource hours a week. We're a good example of supports actually working -- and if she gets to the stage where she needs only a part-time SNA, I'd be delighted."

For further information visit

Irish Independent

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