Thursday, 5 March 2020
Department of Education and Skills
Special Educational Needs Service Provision
209. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if temporary provision for a SNA for a person (details supplied) for even just one hour per day will be examined; if there are alternative arrangements in place to secure additional hours mid-way through the school year; if additional hours can be added on compassionate grounds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2846/20]
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for allocating a quantum of Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support for each school annually taking into account the assessed care needs of children qualifying for SNA support enrolled in the school.
The NCSE allocates SNA support to schools in accordance with the criteria set out in Department Circular 0030/2014, which is available on my Department's website at , in order that students who have care needs can access SNA support as and when it is needed.
In considering applications for SNA support for individual pupils, the NCSE take account of the pupils' needs and consider the resources available to the school to identify whether additionality is needed or whether the school might reasonably be expected to meet the needs of the pupils from its current level of resources.
SNAs are not allocated to individual children but to schools as a school based resource.
SNA allocations to all schools can change from year to year as children with care needs leave the school, as new children with care needs enrol in a school and as children develop more independent living skills and their care needs diminish over time.
The deployment of SNAs within schools is a matter for the individual Principal/Board of Management. SNAs should be deployed by the school in a manner which best meets the care support requirements of the children enrolled in the school for whom SNA support has been allocated. It is a matter for schools to allocate support as required, and on the basis of individual need, which allows schools flexibility in how the SNA support is utilised.
At the end of 2019 there were approximately 15,950 SNAs working in our schools, an increase of over 51% since 2011.
As this query relates to an application for SNA support for a particular pupil, I have referred the question to the NCSE for their direct reply. As Minister, I do not have a role in making determinations in individual cases.
My Department's July Provision Scheme provides funding for an extended school year for students with a severe/profound general learning disability and/or students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
The scheme was developed to reduce potential regression in learning associated with these specific categories of special education needs over the summer holidays.
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) which advises me on these matters published its Policy Advice on Educational Provision for Children with Autism in July 2016 which included a review of the July Scheme.
The review found that in general parents value July provision because it provides day-time respite for families and a structured day for students. However, the NCSE review found a number of problems with the scheme. These include concerns that the scheme may be inequitable because it is not provided to all students with complex special educational needs.
The Council recommended that the relevant Government Departments consider how an equitable national day activity scheme could be developed for all students with complex special educational needs.
The proposed scheme would provide a structured, safe, social environment for all students with complex special educational needs.
My Department has convened an Implementation Group to ensure that the Report’s recommendations are fully and appropriately considered.
There has been consultation with a number of other Departments and State agencies regarding the future direction of the July Education Programme.
It is expected that proposals for a revised scheme will be submitted shortly following which there will be consultations with stakeholders before final decisions are made.