Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Questions (398)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire


398. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Education if she will clarify special needs assistant, SNA, allocations in 2021; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the Covid-19 situation is ongoing and the important measures put in place in 2020 to maintain SNA allocations at current levels must continue; and if no SNA will lose hours in 2021. [6405/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I am aware of the impact of Covid-19 on teaching and learning in our schools. During this period of school closure, students are supported on a remote basis. Later this week we all see the partial return of students in special schools to in-school teaching and learning and special classes in primary schools will resume from next week. A new supplementary programme of in-home tuition/care support commences this week to enhance the learning experience of those students being educated remotely.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) continues to accept applications by schools for exception reviews of Special Needs Assistant (SNA) allocations and each application will continue to be assessed on a case by case basis.

A core recommendation of the NCSE Review of the SNA scheme concerned a change in the way that SNAs are allocated to mainstream classes in both primary and post primary schools and called for the greater proportion of SNAs in these classes to be allocated on the basis of an educational profile of each school before the commencement of the school year in a similar manner to the allocation of special education teachers (SETs).

The frontloaded allocation model is intended to ensure that SNA posts are in schools and available immediately to students upon their arrival, reducing delays in accessing support. It eliminates the need for individual applications and professional assessments in order to access resources and facilitates schools allocating the available resources to those with greatest need.

It had been planned that the frontloaded model of allocation for SNAs would be rolled out to all schools from the commencement of the 2020/21 school year.

However, due to the disruption caused by Covid-19 and the closure of school buildings in March 2020. It was decided that the introduction of the model would be deferred. This will allow time for the necessary planning and training for schools.

As an interim step, SNA allocations were frozen at their current levels for 2020/21 with provision for additionality where necessary. Department Circular 30/2020 sets out the arrangements for SNA allocations for the 2020/21 school year.

Schools were advised in the first instance to review and reprioritise deployment of all SNAs within mainstream settings and allocate resources on the basis that those with the greatest level of need receive the greatest level of support.

Providing access to SNA support continues to be based on primary care needs as outlined in DE Circular 0030/2014. SNA allocations for special classes and special schools are not affected by this arrangement.

Where schools consider their SNA allocation to be inadequate to meet current needs, a school can seek a review by making an application to the NCSE.