Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Questions (66)

Denis Naughten

Question:

66. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review the provisions of Department circular 0030/2014 in view of concerns that it will detrimentally impact upon children with special needs, including those with Down's syndrome; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23956/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The purpose of Circular 0030/2014, which issued to schools on 10th April 2014, is not to reduce the number of SNA posts in schools, but clarifies and restates the purpose of the SNA scheme which is to provide schools with additional support staff who can assist children with special educational needs who also have additional and significant care needs. My officials have already consulted with school Management Bodies prior to issuing the circular and are currently setting up further meetings with Management Bodies and Parent representative groups to address any concerns which may have arisen since the circular issued.

The Government approved an extra 390 SNA posts last December for the period to end-December 2014, which means that there are now almost 11,000 SNAS available to work with children who have an assessed care need in primary, post-primary and special schools. This means that rather than a reduction of SNA posts, there is provision for a further 309 posts to be allocated to schools to the end of December 2014.

In June 2011, the DES published a Value for Money and Policy Review of the SNA scheme. In May 2013, the NCSE published its Policy Advice on Supporting Children with Special Educational Needs in Schools. Both reports concluded that the SNA scheme has been highly successful in supporting the care needs of children with special needs in schools, and with assisting to facilitate their integration and inclusion. However, the reports also concluded that the intended purpose of the scheme was not always generally well understood by parents or schools and that the scope and purpose of the scheme should be clarified for schools.

Whereas all SNA allocations are reviewed annually, it should not be assumed that any such review may lead to a reduction in SNA support for individual pupils, or for schools who have pupils who have continuing care needs. The Circular acknowledges that many pupils will have care needs which may remain constant. However, the Circular makes clear that whereas supports may be reduced to ensure that pupils who have diminishing care needs can be afforded an opportunity to develop independent living skills, that SNA supports will continue to be provided for those pupils who have ongoing care needs.

My Department encourages parents and school authorities to engage locally regarding pupils' education. Should a parent be dissatisfied with the manner in which SNA supports have been provided to support their child's education they should raise this matter directly with their school Principal or the Board of Management of the school. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie. Implementation of this circular should ensure that children's care needs are better understood so that SNAs can work more effectively to assist children.