Wednesday, 13 October 2021
Department of Education and Skills
131. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the analysis her Department has carried out into the possibility of continuing the system of banking substitution days for the current academic year; the analysis her Department has carried out into the impact of the revised sequencing of access to substitution for primary teachers on the continuity of learning for children with additional learning needs pursuant to circular 50/2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50052/21]
140. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the steps that are to be taken when local arrangements that facilitate the pupils to be supervised in a manner that does not involve them being split between existing classes as under circular 50/21 section 6; and her views on whether this amounts to removing special education teacher support to supervise classes when no substitute is available. [50115/21]
141. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the number of hours that were banked nationally past year; and the way this would equate on a pro-rata basis if school buildings had been open for the full 183 days of the school year. [50116/21]
142. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the level of engagement with the education stakeholders prior to the announcement of circular 50/21 section 6; and if it was accepted by them. [50117/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 126, 131, 140, 141 and 142 together.
Among the COVID-19 supports provided for the 2020/21 school year, additional measures to provide for substitution to cover for teacher absences were introduced. These included a major expansion of the Substitute Teacher Supply Panels. These were extended and currently almost 380 newly appointed supply panel teachers are employed, providing substitute cover to over 2,500 primary schools across the country. These substitute Supply Panels are not the only means whereby schools source substitutes but are set up to work alongside the existing methods of sourcing substitute teachers such as the national substitution portal service "Sub Seeker", operated by IPPN or through a school’s own panel of regular substitutes.
As a measure of last resort, and in the context of the uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 related absences schools were permitted to use non-mainstream class teachers last year to provide cover for teacher absences. Almost 20,000 substitute days were ‘banked’ by more than 1,000 schools while schools were opened during the 2020/21 school year. School buildings were closed in January and February 2021.
Department Circulars 0044/2019 and 31/2011, provide that schools are required to employ appropriately qualified and registered teachers and ensure that unemployed teachers should be offered employment in preference to those who have retired. The circulars set out the sequence of recruitment for substitute appointments, which include contacting a person on the substitute list established by the employer, or by using a national substitute service such as SubSeeker, or advertising.
Due to the successful roll out of the vaccination programme and changes to the rules around close contacts and the requirements to restrict movements, teacher absences due to Covid-19 should be reduced this year. In this context using non-mainstream class teachers should no longer be necessary and schools should revert to using the normal sequence of filling substitute positions. It will therefore no longer be necessary to ‘bank hours’. This will ensure that children with special education needs get access to their specialised teaching on an ongoing basis.
127. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the status of an application for increased SNA support by a school (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49994/21]
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.
In order to minimise disruption for schools, in the current circumstances, and to provide for continuity of allocations 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 ncse.ie/for-schools.
The NCSE have published the SNA allocations on their website www.ncse.ie.
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.
Circulars 29/2021 and 30/2020 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.