Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Questions (235)

Finian McGrath


235. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will reconsider Circular 0030/2014 regarding special needs assistants provision and to ensure that all children receive the necessary supports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24515/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The purpose of Circular 0030/2014 is not to reduce the number of SNA posts in schools, but to clarify the role and purpose of SNA support and to ensure it is targeted at those pupils who need it, in accordance with policy advice recommendations. My officials have already consulted with school Management Bodies prior to issuing the circular and is currently setting up further meetings with Management Bodies and Parent representative groups to clarify the provisions fo the circular. In June 2011, the Department of Education and Skills published a Value for Money and Policy Review of the SNA scheme. In May 2013, the National Council for Special Education 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 in 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. It is important to note that the new Circular, for the most part, reflects existing allocation practices which have been in place in recent years, as opposed to introducing new criteria. 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 These extra posts will ensure the Government's policy of ensuring every child assessed as needing SNA support will receive access to support. Implementation of the circular should ensure that children's care needs are better understood so that SNAs can work more effectively to assist children.