Written answers

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Department of Education and Skills

Special Educational Needs

Photo of Peter BurkePeter Burke (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael)
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348. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if an application for an exceptional review has been considered for a school (details supplied) in County Longford to enable it to provide a special needs assistant to an incoming junior infant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27912/21]

Photo of Josepha MadiganJosepha Madigan (Dublin Rathdown, Fine Gael)
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The NCSE has responsibility for planning and coordinating school supports for children with special educational needs including the allocation of SNAs and reviews.

The Special Needs Assistant (SNA) scheme is designed to provide schools with additional adult support staff who can assist children with special educational needs who also have additional and significant care needs. Such support is provided in order to facilitate the attendance of those pupils at school and also to minimise disruption to class or teaching time for the pupils concerned, or for their peers, and with a view to developing their independent living skills.

SNAs are not allocated to individual children but to schools as a school based resource. The deployment of SNAs within schools is a matter for the individual Principal/Board of Management of the school. 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.

In light of the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the introduction of the new Frontloaded Allocation Model for SNAs for students in mainstream classes in primary and post -primary schools is to be deferred for a further year to the beginning of the 2022/23 school year.

The disruption prevented the delivery of the necessary training and information workshops to support the roll out of the new allocation model which had been planned for earlier this year.

The frontloading of SNAs for mainstream classes is a key part of the School Inclusion Model. The Department and NCSE are committed to its introduction as part of the development of that Model.

The training and workshops are designed to help school leaders and teachers in their in-school planning for the new model and their engagement with parents. These sessions will now be rescheduled to take place during the 2021/22 school year. Further information will be issued by the NCSE in due course.

In order to minimise disruption for schools, in the current circumstances, and to provide for continuity of allocations, the Minister for Special Education and Inclusion and the Minister of State for Education have agreed on the following arrangements for the allocation of Special Needs Assistants for mainstream classes for the 2021/22 school year:

- Existing mainstream class SNA allocations in schools on 30 April 2021 will be maintained and will automatically rollover into the 2021/22 school year.

- No school will therefore receive an allocation less than that which they had on 30 April 2021.

- SNAs currently in mainstream settings can continue in post for the next school year in the normal way.

- Priority consideration will now be given by the NCSE to applications for increased support for the 2021/22 school year, in particular, applications from schools with no SNAs and developing schools will be prioritised. Determinations will be made before 30 June. Other applications will be processed in order of date received.

- As in previous years, where circumstances change during the course of the 2021/22 school year that materially increase the level of care need in a school to the extent that the school can clearly demonstrate that it cannot be met within the existing SNA allocation, the school may apply to the NCSE for a review. Detailed information on the NCSE exceptional review process is published on the NCSE website www.ncse.ie/for-schools

The NCSE will publish SNA allocations on their website www.ncse.ie by the end of May 2021.

SNA allocations for special classes and special schools are not affected by this arrangement.

Circular 0029/2021 has been published and advises schools of the arrangements for the allocation of SNAs for the 2021/22 school year.

Provisions set out in Circular 0030/2020 has been extended for the 2021/22 school year.

Circular 0029/2021 and Circular 0030/2020 are available on the Departments website.

My Department does not have a role in making individual school determinations. Accordingly your correspondence has been forwarded to the NCSE for direct reply.


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