I wish to advise the Deputy that the level of resources being devoted to supporting children with Special Educational Needs has been maintained at €1.3 billion this year. This includes provision for 10,575 Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) and nearly 10,000 Learning Support and Resource Teachers. These resources have been protected despite the ongoing severe financial position and a requirement to make expenditure savings across a range of areas. There has been no reduction in the overall number of SNA posts being provided for schools for the coming school year. This provision remains at 10,575 posts, which will ensure that all children who qualify for access to SNA support for the coming school year will receive access to such support.
It is important to note that the level of SNAs required to support children with special educational needs changes from year to year in line with the enrolment of different children with different care needs. The care needs of individual children can also change from year to year. The NCSE takes these factors into account when allocating SNAs to schools. Therefore, even if the number of students receiving SNA support rises, this does not necessarily mean that the required number of SNAs to support their care needs should rise by a similar percentage. In June 2012 the NCSE reported that the number of children requiring support for the 2012/2013 school year was in the order of 20,000 and the most up-to-date current figures is that for December 2012 of 21,972.
The initial allocation of SNAs for the coming school year will support about 22,000 pupils. This is at about the same level supported in December 2012, despite the passing of 6 months. To date the NCSE has allocated over 10,490 SNA posts to schools which leaves over 80 posts available for allocation during the school year. The NCSE has advised that they have processed all applications for SNA support this year and have allocated the level of SNA support to schools that it considers will meet the care needs of all qualifying pupils. These allocations have been made in line with DES policy and there has been no change in the policy or its application this year.
Details of the SNA allocations which have been made to schools by the NCSE for the 2013/2014 school year are now available on the NCSE website www.ncse.ie, which provides details of the SNA allocations for each school on a school by school and per county basis.