Thursday, 12 May 2022
Department of Education and Skills
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. The policy advice was considered by the Department and 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 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 participating SNA.
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 a 4 year period based on a full uptake of 3,500 SNAs. Each phase of the programme has been fully subscribed to date. 500 have completed the programme and the first award ceremony took place on the 25 February 2022. A new cohort of 1,000 commenced the programme September last.
This programme allowed SNAs the opportunity to refresh and update their knowledge and skills and provide an opportunity to interact with educators and colleagues in a learning and supported professional environment.
This is the first national training programme for SNAs employed in schools and is tailored to their needs. As this is the first programme, it is appropriate to take the time to review outcomes which will inform the future approach to ongoing training and professional development of SNAs. Part of that consideration will include accreditation.