Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Questions (216)

Clare Daly


216. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will confirm that the number of special needs assistant posts allocated at primary level, numbered at 6,000 plus, will be considered as a majority group out of 10,575, and the number of SNA posts allocated at post-primary, at 2000 plus, will be considered as a minority group out of 10,575; if he will confirm that the 32-hour system that is applied to SNA posts is used primarily as a pay divisor for calculating part-time posts by his Department; and if he will further confirm that circulars M29/95 and PC11/95 are still active and used for calculating the working school week. [15033/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I can confirm that as at 31 December 2013 there were 8,482 SNAs employed in Primary schools and 2,103 SNAs employed in Post Primary schools. These are whole-time equivalent figures. Furthermore this question raises three matters and I will deal with each in turn. Firstly, all Special Needs Assistants (SNAs), whether at primary or post-primary level, are paid on the SNA salary scale which is set by the Minister for Education and Skills in conjunction with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. SNAs who are employed in a part-time capacity are paid a pro-rata amount dependent upon their level of hours of employment. Part-time SNAs are paid on the agreed divisor rate for pay purposes for part-time SNAs which is 32 hours. I should point out that this divisor was agreed with both of the Trade Unions (IMPACT and SIPTU) that represent SNAs.

Secondly, the question deals with the working hours of SNAs. The contractual position in respect of the working hours of SNAs is as outlined in their contracts of employment which were agreed with the school management authorities and the relevant Trade Unions representing SNAs (IMPACT and SIPTU) prior to their introduction in 2005. Links to the SNA Contracts of Employment are as follows: Department of Education and Skills Circular SNA 12/05 (Post-Primary) http://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/sna12_05.pdf Department of Education and Skills Circular SNA 15/05 (Primary) http://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Popular-forms/SNA-15-05-Contract-Form.pdf. This contract of employment is augmented by all of the relevant Departmental Circulars governing Special Needs Assistants which detail the standardised terms and conditions of employment for SNAs. These Circulars are amended and new Circulars are issued by the Minister for Education and Skills from time to time. The position regarding the working hours of full-time SNAs is as outlined in these standard SNA contracts of employment. In that context, the standard SNA contract has been designed to be flexible to cater for the different spectrum of working hours across all the various schools including primary, post-primary and special schools. No set hours were agreed but instead full-time SNAs are expected to work for the normal school hours in the school that they are working in, and in addition to be available for a period of time before and after school in order to help with reception and dispersal of children and preparation and tidying up of classrooms etc. These times are set locally by the school management and will vary from school to school depending on the requirements of the school. In addition, all SNAs were required to be available for a number of days at the start and finish of each school term not exceeding 12 in total. Under the Croke Park Agreement it was agreed to introduce greater flexibility to the use of these 12 days. These 12 days now equate to 72 hours (pro-rata for part-time SNAs) to be used by schools as an additional bank of hours to be utilised and delivered outside of normal school opening hours and/or the normal school year. Furthermore, the issue of appropriate working hours for all public servants was one of the key aspects of the set of proposals for a public service agreement which were put forward by the Labour Relations Commission and which now form the Public Service Stability Agreement 2013-2016 (the Haddington Road Agreement).

The specific text of the Haddington Road Agreement relating to working hours for SNAs is as follows:"SPECIAL NEEDS ASSISTANTS Hours. Under the terms of the Public Service Agreement 2010-2014, discussions took place that led to agreement on changed attendance arrangements for Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) that give schools the option of an additional two hours working time per week from each Special Needs Assistant. Under the terms of this Agreement on increased working hours in the Public Service, the available requirements in schools for additional hours for SNAs is quite limited. Given issues such as the duration of the school day and operation hours, and the specific availability of individual SNAs the details of the utilisation of any additional requirements should be the subject of further discussions. These new attendance arrangements, allied to the provisions outlined in the above paragraph should be the subject of a review by the LRC in advance of the 2013/2014 school year, involving the Department of Education and Skills and IMPACT/SIPTU, in order to assess if the additional hours are being utilised in the most effective and appropriate manner and in order to achieve agreement on any changes deemed necessary in terms of the arrangement agreed for teachers. This will constitute the liability on Special Needs Assistants in respect of working hours for the purposes of this extension to the Public Service Agreement." Thirdly, I can confirm that Circular Letters M29/95 and PC11/95 are still valid circulars, however their purpose is to outline the minimum level of tuition time for students. They do not set out the working hours for school staff.