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Special Educational Needs Data

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 5 November 2013

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Questions (288, 289)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

288. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide the number of special needs assistants currently employed in primary schools across the State; and indicate if the cap on SNA appointments will be breached by the end of this year. [45929/13]

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Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

289. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plan to change the manner in which special needs assistants are allocated to schools based on the overall schools' needs rather than on each individual pupil's diagnosis; and if such changes are put in place, if it can be ensured that the special educational needs of each child in primary schools in the State can be adequately facilitated. [45930/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 288 and 289 together. The Deputy will be aware that the previous Government, as part of the Programme for National Recovery, introduced a cap on the number of Special Needs Assistants. This figure was set at 10,575 posts and has remained in place since the 2011/12 school year. 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, to support children with special educational needs. 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 has notified schools of their SNA allocation for 2013/14, based on the number of valid applications received and the extent of the care needs of qualifying children. Details of these allocations are available at www.ncse.ie. To date the NCSE has allocated approximately 10,520 Whole Time Equivalent SNA posts to schools. The remaining 55 posts are available for allocation throughout the school year, for new assessments of disability, new entrants, or emergency or late applications, in accordance with the terms of the SNA scheme. Of these posts allocated, there are currently 8,407 whole time equivalent SNAs employed in Primary schools, including Special schools which are designated as Primary schools. Based on discussions with the NCSE, it may be the case that additional SNA posts above the figure of 10,575, may be required to respond to need for the current school year. This issue will be dealt with if and when it arises. The NCSE is still processing SNA applications for the current school year. The NCSE allocates a quantum of SNA support for each school annually taking into account the assessed care needs of children qualifying for SNA support each year. The deployment of SNAs within schools is then a matter for the individual Principal/Board of Management. 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. 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. My Department has published a Value for Money (VFM) and Policy Analysis Review of the Special Needs Assistant scheme. This review is available on my Departments website: www.education.gov.ie. The Review has shown that the SNA Scheme has been successful in supporting schools in meeting the needs of students with disabilities who also have significant care needs. However, the review also found that the allocation process and the purpose of the scheme is not always fully understood. The review recommended that the SNA scheme should be restated to ensure an efficient allocation of SNA resources and to clarify the 'care' nature of the SNA role for parents, schools and professionals. The National Council for Special Education recently published its report on Supporting Students with Special Educational Needs in Schools, which also recommended that my Department should clarify the role of the SNA, as recommended in the VFM report. It is my intention that a new Circular will be issued to schools in the near future which will provide further clarification for schools and parents with regard to the role of the SNA and the purpose of the SNA scheme.

Question No. 290 answered with Question No. 262.
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