Written answers

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Department of Education and Skills

Special Educational Needs

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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350. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if the certificate in inclusive school support, the national training programme for SNAs by UCD, will be accredited. [32921/21]

Photo of Josepha MadiganJosepha Madigan (Dublin Rathdown, Fine Gael)
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Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) play a huge role in helping to ensure the inclusion of pupils with significant care needs in education and in school life.  This was acknowledged in the Comprehensive Review of the Special Needs Assistant Scheme (SNAs) published by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) in 2018. 

The Review made a number of recommendations regarding SNAs and the need for a more broadly based set of supports including therapeutic supports for pupils with complex needs. The Review also referenced the training needs of SNAs.  In this regard, the NCSE recommended that a new national training programme at Level 5 of the National Qualification Framework be developed for existing SNAs who do not have the requisite level of training and for new SNAs on appointment.  The NCSE also recommended that training tailored to the specific complex needs of some students being cared for by SNAs would also be provided. 

The policy advice has been considered by the Department. It was decided that priority should be given to the development of a training programme for SNAs who may not have had a recent opportunity to access a training programme tailored to their role. 

A public procurement competition was held for the development and delivery of a new national training programme for SNAs. A detailed specification of need and learning outcomes was developed and published for the competition. Formal accreditation to the National Qualifications Framework was not a requirement for the programme. Following evaluation of the tenders received, the contract was awarded to University College Dublin (UCD) School of Education, in conjunction with UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems. 

UCD has a strong reputation in the world of education and training.  It brings with it a wealth of experience and research knowledge in the training and has very strong quality assurance arrangements for its programmes.  Feedback from programme participants is a key feature of this quality assurance process. 

This new programme aims to enhance the knowledge, skills and expertise of SNAs whose work is central to the inclusion of students with additional care and complex needs in school life. 

The programme consists of five modules, delivered online over a 10-month period. Flexibility is a key part of the approach to the delivery of the programme and participation is voluntary.

The programme is fully funded by the Department and delivered at no cost to the SNA.

Completion of the programme may serve as a stepping stone to further education opportunities in the area.

Each participant who completes the programme successfully will receive a certificate from UCD School of Education which may be of assistance in pursuing further education. 

€2.45m will be allocated to this programme over the next 4 year period based on a full uptake of 3,500 SNAs. The first cohort of 500 SNAs enrolled in January and this phase was oversubscribed. 

This is the first national training programme for SNAs employed in our schools and is tailored to their needs.  The programme will be evaluated and the outcome will inform the approach to the training of SNAs in the future. There is no cost to serving SNAs working in schools. This course is fully funded by the Department of Education.

The Department recognises that a more strategic approach is required for the training of SNAs.  This would deal with a number of matters including the identification of need and the provision of appropriate training programmes.  The issue of programme accreditation will be considered further in this context.

Photo of Emer HigginsEmer Higgins (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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351. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if the ratio of SEN pupils to staff for the summer programme can be the same for SEN pupils enrolled in mainstream schools as it is for the SEN children enrolled in special classes, that is six pupils with one teacher and two SNAs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32928/21]

Photo of Josepha MadiganJosepha Madigan (Dublin Rathdown, Fine Gael)
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My Department has approved the provision of significantly expanded summer education programmes for pupils with complex special educational needs and those at greatest risk of educational disadvantage, as a Covid-19 pandemic response measure, for summer 2021.

This is an important decision, which ensures that for first time all primary and post primary schools have the opportunity to provide summer programmes for students with complex needs and those at risk of educational disadvantage.

The total funding available to provide the programme is up to €40 million, a one hundred per cent increase on the allocation for summer provision in 2020.

The programmes for mainstream students in primary and post-primary schools are new programmes for 2021, building upon previous summer programmes for pupils with complex special educational needs and those provided in DEIS schools last year.

The following are the programmes which can be provided by schools in summer 2021:

- Summer Programme for pupils with Complex Educational Needs and pupils at risk of Educational Disadvantage

- Special Class and Special School Programme

- Literacy Numeracy Summer Camp/Campai Samhraidh

All children and young people enrolled in special schools or special classes in primary school are eligible to participate in the summer programme, where the school decides to offer the programme. This programme will run for between 2, 3, 4 or 5 weeks (min 2 weeks) during July and August during the summer break. Where a school decides not to operate the programme, these children and young people may avail of the home-based programme.

The staffing (teacher and SNAs) ratios for children with complex needs in special schools and special classes are the same as during the school year.

In relation to the programme for students enrolled in mainstream classes, the normal staffing/pupil ratio is 1 teacher and 1 SNA for a group of 12 students.  However, it is open to schools to apply to this department for additional teaching and SNAs support where there are more than 6 children with complex special educational needs in the group.


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