I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports, including Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support. The NCSE operates within my Department's established criteria for the allocation of such supports and the staffing resources available to my Department. The NCSE allocates a level of SNA support for each school annually taking into account the assessed care needs of all of the qualifying children enrolled in the school.
In line with this Government's commitment to protect frontline services for pupils with special educational needs, 10,575 whole time equivalent (wte) Special Needs Assistant (SNA) posts are being provided for primary, post-primary and special schools for the current school year in order to support the care needs of pupils with disabilities. This is the same number as in the previous year and there has been no reduction in the number of SNA posts available for allocation. The NCSE initially allocated 10,311 WTE SNA posts to schools for the 2012/13 school year, in June of last year, based on the number of valid applications received and the extent of the care needs of qualifying children. A further 176 WTE SNA posts have since been allocated to schools, giving a total of 10,487 posts allocated from the 10,575 posts available for allocation. The NCSE have also advised that every child who has met the criteria for access to SNA support in the current school year to date is in receipt of such support.