Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) are recruited specifically to assist in the care of pupils with disabilities, in an educational context. They may be appointed to a special school or a mainstream national school to assist school authorities in making suitable provision for a pupil or pupils with special care needs arising from a disability. The first priority is that the care needs of the children are met on an ongoing basis during the school year.
In June 2012, my Department, in conjunction with the School Management Bodies and the relevant Trade Unions, agreed a Career Break Scheme for Special Needs Assistants in Recognised Primary and Post-Primary Schools, the provisions for which are contained in Circular Letter 22/2012. The purpose of the scheme is to enable employers, wherever possible, to facilitate applicants to take time off to engage in, among other things, personal development and education (including teacher training). This scheme therefore is applicable for courses referred to by the Deputy where participants are required to attend teaching practice and be absent from the provision of care duties for significant periods of time during the school year.
My Department has no plans to review the leave arrangements as outlined in Circular 22/2012.