Tuesday, 14 June 2022
Department of Education and Skills
Special Educational Needs
1033. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the current status of the proposed front-loading model for special education needs assistants; the modelling or algorithm that informs the front-loading model; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30403/22]
The availability of SNAs is critical to the inclusion of students with significant care needs in education and in school life. 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.
I can inform the Deputy that schools were notified of the arrangements for the allocation of Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support in respect of students in mainstream classes for the 2022/2023 school year on 31 May 2022. The arrangements include the following provisions:
- SNA allocations for the 2022/23 school year are being maintained at existing levels to give schools clarity and certainty, a process is now available to schools where their change needs have reduced to contact the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) so as to ensure that resources are focused on schools with the greater care needs.
- The exceptional review process can result in an increase or decrease in SNA resources depending on changing care needs in a school.
Schools have maintained their SNA allocations since 2019 and in addition an average of 1,000 SNAs per annum have been allocated to schools since that time in 2020 and again in 2021. This year 1,165 extra SNAs will be allocated to schools for the 2022/23 school year – 620 in special schools and classes and 545 across mainstream setting. This will bring the total of SNAs in our schools to 19,169 – a record number of SNAs supporting children with special educational needs.
It was intended to introduce a front loaded model of SNA allocations for 2022/2023 however to do now would be very significantly disruptive to schools at a time when they are still managing the impacts of Covid-19 and staffing challenges including for SNA. Work has been ongoing on an appropriate front loading SNA model that is fully cognisant of matching SNA resources with the care needs of those children who need it and while significant progress has been made it has become clear that to introduce it now would not achieve this.