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"No question" of reducing number of SNA posts, says Department

The Department of Education has rejected Micheál Martin’s claims that there are widespread cuts to SNAs.

Image: Classroom via Shutterstock

Updated 10.50pm

THE DEPARTMENT OF Education and Skills has described claims by Micheál Martin that the number of Special Needs Assistants is being reduced as “unfounded”.

The Fianna Fáil leader released a statement yesterday that warned about what he described as a “covert clampdown” on SNAs.

No question

Today, the Department said that there is “no question of reducing the number of SNA posts in the school system” – and questioned the timing of Martin’s statement.

The Department has in fact increased the number of SNAs to its highest level yet with 10,656 Whole Time Equivalent posts currently allocated to schools.

The Department said it rejects Martin’s “unfounded claims” that there are to be widespread cuts to SNAs.

His comments have the potential to needlessly cause anxiety among parents of special needs children – and the timing of his intervention just days out from a local and European election is questionable.

In December, 2013 the Government announced it was increasing the number of Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) available for allocation to schools, in response to demographic growth and increased demand for SNA support.

An extra 390 posts were allocated, “which means that there will be 10,965 posts available for allocation by the end of 2014″.

This means there will be almost 11,000 SNA posts available to work with children who have an assessed care need requiring SNA support in primary, post primary, and special schools.


Martin’s concerns stemmed from a circular published in April. But the Department said that the circular “does not reduce or propose a reduction in the number of SNA posts available to allocate to schools”.

Rather it sets out to clarify the purpose of SNA support and the care tasks for which SNA support will normally be provided.

The department noted that in 2011, the DES published a Value for Money and Policy Review of the SNA scheme, while in May 2013, the NCSE published its Policy Advice on Supporting Children with Special Educational Needs in Schools.

“Both reports concluded that the SNA scheme has been highly successful in supporting the care needs of children with special needs in schools, and with assisting to facilitate their integration and inclusion,” it said.

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However, the reports also concluded that “the intended purpose of the scheme was not always generally well understood by parents or schools and that the scope and purpose of the scheme should be clarified”.

Pupils’s needs

According to the Department, the April circular acknowledges that many some pupils will have care needs which may remain constant.

It says that whereas all SNA allocations are reviewed annually, “it should not be assumed that any such review may lead to a reduction in SNA support for individual pupils, or for schools who have pupils who have continuing care needs”.

The circular makes clear that whereas supports may be reduced to ensure that pupils who have diminishing care needs can be afforded an opportunity to develop independent living skills, that SNA supports will continue to be provided for those pupils who have ongoing care needs.

Consideration of the number of SNAs required in Clare National and Secondary schools will continue to be made by the NCSE, based on the assessed care needs of the qualifying children in these schools.

- First published 7.01pm

Read: Martin warns of ‘covert clampdown’ on Special Needs Assistant supports>

Read: Opinion: Children with special needs are being failed – this is not inclusive education>

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