Written answers

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Department of Education and Skills

Special Educational Needs Staff

Claire Kerrane (Roscommon-Galway, Sinn Fein)
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269. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills when schools will be given the allocation for SNAs for September 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3314/20]

Claire Kerrane (Roscommon-Galway, Sinn Fein)
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270. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the new process for the allocation of SNAs; if schools will be informed of the criteria used by his Department in such allocations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3315/20]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 269 and 270 together.

A new model for allocating Special Needs Assistants to primary and post primary schools for students in mainstream classes only will be introduced with effect from the commencement of the 2020/21 school year as part of the phased roll out of the School Inclusion Model (SIM).

The change to a new allocation model was recommended by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) in policy advice published in May 2018 entitled the "Comprehensive Review of the Special Needs Assistant Scheme – a new School Inclusion Model to deliver the right supports at the right time to students with additional care needs”.

The NCSE Review found that, while the SNA Scheme, as currently configured, works well in meeting the needs of younger children and students for whom it was originally designed, and is greatly valued by parents, students and schools, it was found to be less effective for older primary and post-primary students.

The NCSE concluded that a better model of support was required, one which provides the right support at the right time, provided by a range of personnel with relevant qualification and skill sets. In short, a suite of both education and health therapeutic supports was required to support children with special educational needs.

The allocation of SNAs for mainstream classes to primary and post primary schools from 2020/21 onwards will be based on the school profile used for the allocation of Special Education Teachers. The additional 1,064 SNA posts provided in Budget 2020 will facilitate the transition to the new allocation model as well as meeting other priorities.

Under the new allocation model:

- No schools will receive an allocation of SNA support for mainstream classes which is less than their existing 2019/20 mainstream SNA allocation on the introduction of the frontloaded model and some schools will gain

- Parents will not be required to secure a diagnosis of disability in order to access SNA support – the link between diagnosis and resources will be broken

- Where schools have an SNA, SNA support will be available immediately to students in mainstream classes upon their arrival in school thereby reducing delays in accessing support.

- Schools will have greater autonomy and flexibility in how their SNA allocation is deployed to meeting the needs of the students in their schools.

- Frontloading will reduce the administrative burden on schools who have to follow up on assessments under the current application-based process.

- SNAs will have more certainty around their tenure of employment and the new model does not change their roles and functions.

- Frontloading will free up valuable resources in the system which are currently involved in carrying out assessments (HSE and NEPS) and administering an assessment based allocation system so children can access SNA support. These valuable resources can now be redirected to meeting other priority needs and to providing increased supports for families and schools.

These new arrangements will not impact on the way SNAs are currently allocated to special classes and special schools. Professional assessments will continue to be required in these cases and the normal application process will continue.

To support the implementation of the new model the Department held a broadly based consultation with key stakeholders on 4thand 5thFebruary.

The purpose of the consultation was to, brief stakeholders on how the allocation model will operate, to explore the nature of any challenges and opportunities expected to arise during the implementation phase and any action that may be required in this regard, to consider the supports and information required to support effective implementation and to consider any other relevant issues.

A number of stakeholders who attended the consultation sessions made submissions to Department on the new model and further individual meetings are currently taking place with the stakeholders concerned.

Following the consideration of the outcome of the consultation a circular will be developed for issue to schools. The circular will outline, inter alia, the content of the model, the scope for appeals and school reviews, training and supports to be provided. It is expected that SNA allocations for 2020/21 will be made shortly afterwards.

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