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Special Educational Needs

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 10 March 2022

Thursday, 10 March 2022

Questions (82)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

82. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Education the position regarding the meeting between the National Council for Special Education and a school (details supplied), which is scheduled for 4 March 2022, to discuss urgent need of the school for additional SNA resources; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13194/22]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Education)

What was the outcome of the meeting between the principal of Tullydonnell National School, Ms Anne Marie Ford, and the Department of Education regarding the urgent need for additional SNAs? The Minister of State met the principal and me outside Leinster House, so I would be delighted if a good outcome were to be announced now.

I met Ms Ford and some members of the school staff outside Leinster House with the Deputy, who has been a strong advocate for the school. At my request, the NCSE met the school on Friday to discuss the issues of concern. At the meeting, the SENO explained the basis for the allocation of SNA support. The SENO will engage further with parents in this regard.

SNAs have to be deployed by schools themselves in a manner that best meets their needs and care supports. As I told Ms Ford, an additional 1,165 SNAs have been allocated for distribution this year via budget 2022. We are targeting and prioritising new and expanding schools. Notwithstanding that, if there is a genuine need - Ms Ford is of the view that there is a genuine need in her school and has made that strong case to the NCSE - we will be examining front-loading allocations over the next few weeks and I hope there will be consideration given in that context. The allocations for next year are under consideration and a decision will be made shortly. We want to support those schools that have been hardest hit by the freeze, for example, developing schools.

While I welcome the Minister of State's comments, I did not hear an absolute commitment to look after the needs of this particular school at this time. Rather, she is saying that the situation will continue to be reviewed. The parents, students, the local parish priest and the whole community are concerned about this. When will the Minister of State make a decision on it? Would there be any point in a further meeting if there are issues to be clarified between both parties?

To stress, the decision is not mine. Rather, it is a decision for the NCSE. However, the NCSE is fully aware from the meeting last Friday of the genuine concerns of Tullydonnell National School in County Louth. A decision on allocations will be made over the next number of weeks. I will not give any guarantee in the Dáil, as I do not make promises or give guarantees, but suffice it to say that the NCSE is aware of the school's concerns. An additional 1,165 SNAs are coming on stream and, if required, I hope that the school will be satisfied.

I can give the Minister of State a guarantee that she will hear about this matter again, and so will I. She will continue to hear about it.

In fairness to the Government, it has allocated a significant number of additional assistants, but this is a school that has to be heard. The delivery must be transparent and is needed. I appreciate that the decision is not the Minister of State's, but we do not want to be protesting again shortly with an even larger crowd.

I certainly do not, but it is important to say that SNAs should be deployed by a school in a manner that best meets the care support requirements of the kids enrolled in that school. I have heard this school's concerns and the NCSE knows its concerns. I hope that there will be a satisfactory conclusion - I want that also. I thank the Deputy for advocating on behalf of the school so strongly.

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