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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 16 October, 2019
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Special needs assistants unsure if they will have work in September

The overall number of SNAs are up, but some schools have lost out on hours.

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IMPACT HAS CRITICISED the timing of today’s announcement on special needs assistant allocations for the 2014-2015 school year.

The union, which represents over 6,000 SNAs, said the late publication of the allocation figures means some assistants are unsure as to whether or not they’ll have work next September.

Impact’s assistant general secretary Dessie Robinson said: “The department has issued the figures after the end of the post-primary school year and just two days before the end of the primary school year.

This will inevitably mean some SNAs – and the children they support – will go into the summer uncertain about where they stand next September. Hopefully it won’t be as bad as last year, but it’s still not good enough.

“We are seeking a concrete commitment from the education department that it will protect whole-time positions,” Robinson stated.

The union cautiously welcomed the “slight” increase in the number of SNA post for the next academic year.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has said there will be over 10,900 SNA posts in schools during the next academic year. The exact number will become clear when enrolment of students in mainstream schools are finalised in September.

Some up, some down

There will be an additional 195 (or 3%) primary SNA posts and extra 68.5 (3.2%) post-primary posts.

This year, 29% of schools will have a greater level of SNA support next year with a further 51% of schools having no change to their level of SNA support. The remaining 20% will see a reduction.

sna allocation Source: NCSE

Robinson said schools in several counties are losing out.

Despite a slight aggregate increase in the number of SNA posts, many schools will find that their allocation is down. This may well result in a reduction of service to certain children with special needs and it will certainly mean a reduction in paid working hours for many low-paid special needs assistants.

The following counties have lost SNA hours: Clare, Kilkenny, Laois (post-primary), Longford (primary), Monaghan (post-primary), Sligo (post-primary), Waterford (primary) and Westmeath (primary).

The NCSE noted that changes in the level of SNA posts in individual schools occur every year because students leave or change school and new students enrol. In addition, it said that as students become more independent, their need for SNA support can diminish.

At present, there are 6,347.15 SNA posts in primary schools, this will increase to 6,541.87 in September. There are currently 2,116.5 SNA posts in secondary schools, this will increase to 2,185 at the start of the new school term.

As of December 2013, 23,000 students were in receipt of SNA support.

Redeployment

Impact said that it has negotiated strengthened arrangements for the redeployment of redundant special needs assistants with the Department of Education.

Redundant SNAs are now placed on a redeployment panel from which schools are obliged to interview. They have to verify that they have followed the correct procedures within six weeks of making an appointment.

The panel is also open to SNAs who lost their posts at the end of the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school years.

Today the NCSE also published the outcome of the appeals to its decisions concerning allocations of SNA and Resource Teaching posts during 2013.

Out of the 24,800 applications for such supports that were processed for the 2013-2014 school year, the body received a total of 155 appeals: 4 were upheld, 18 were withdrawn and 133 were not upheld.

ncse appeals Source: NCSE

Labour Senator Mary Moran welcomed today’s announcement, saying it was “vitally important … that all eligible students in need of SNA support are assured that this support will be in place from September”.

“I remain committed to actively engaging with all education partners, so that we provide the right supports and achieve the best outcomes for our children.”

Read: “No question” of reducing number of SNA posts, says Department

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Órla Ryan

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