I wish to advise the Deputy that there has not been a reduction in SNA support for schools. This year, provision is being made for up to 10,965 SNAs, of whom over 10,900 SNAs have initially been allocated to schools in September. This is an increase of 390 posts on the previous cap of 10,575 posts. This is the highest level of SNA allocation that we have ever had. The policy of the Government is that every child who is assessed as needing SNA support will receive access to such support. To support this policy, I announced as part of Budget 2015 that a further 145 SNAs will be provided to schools between now and the end of 2014, with a further 220 SNAs available to schools in 2015. This will bring the total number of SNAs to 11,330 next year.
Once SNAs have been allocated to schools, 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.
This Government has been resolutely committed to protecting the level of investment being made to support children with special educational needs at a time when there has been a requirement to make expenditure reductions across a range of areas. It is an area of spending which has been prioritised above most other areas by this Government, despite the enormous pressures on all areas of public spending.