Thursday, 9 May 2019

Ceisteanna (67)

Eugene Murphy

Ceist:

67. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he is taking to address the various issues which special needs assistants are experiencing nationally in terms of job security, hours of work, contractual inequalities and SNA staffing levels in schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20222/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for allocating a quantum of Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support for each school annually, taking into account the assessed care needs of children qualifying for SNA support enrolled in the school. The number of SNAs employed in a school depends on the allocation given to the school by the NCSE, based on its assessment of the special educational needs of pupils in the school.

My Department has no control over the allocation process to schools and is not in a position to influence the allocation process in light of the fact that the NCSE is an independent statutory body. In considering applications for SNA support for individual pupils, the NCSE take account of the pupils' needs and consider the resources available to the school to identify whether additionality is needed or whether the school might reasonably be expected to meet the needs of the pupils from its current level of resources. SNAs are not allocated to individual children but to schools as a school based resource and allocations to all schools can change from year to year as children with care needs leave the school, as new children with care needs enrol in a school and as children develop more independent living skills and their care needs diminish over time.

In respect of job security, the supplementary assignment arrangements for Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) were established on foot of proposals brought forward by the Labour Relations Commission when the Haddington Road Agreement was being agreed. These supplementary assignment arrangements for SNAs continue to operate under the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018 - 2020 , and both unions representing SNAs, namely SIPTU and FÓRSA, have signed up to that agreement. As set out in the LRC proposals, the supplementary assignment arrangements for SNAs only apply to current SNAs who are notified that they are to be made redundant. Accordingly, the purpose of these arrangements is to facilitate eligible SNAs who are being made redundant by one employer in filling SNA vacancies that may become available in another school / ETB. Once an SNA with a minimum of one year's service (service in a substitute capacity i.e. covering for maternity leave, sick leave, career breaks, job-sharing etc. does not count) is notified by his/her employer that s/he is to be made redundant then s/he shall be deemed to be a member of a supplementary assignment panel for SNAs. The detailed supplementary assignment arrangements for SNAs for the 2018/2019 school year are set out in Departmental Circular 0034/2018 which issued on 17 May 2017 and which is available on the Department's website at the following address:

http://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0034_2018.pdf The operation of this panel is described and outlined in Circular 0034/2018 and it is designed to be as flexible as possible which enables all eligible SNAs, who have the requisite Panel Form 1 completed by their former employer, to apply for any SNA position that is advertised by a school or an ETB with no sectorial, diocesan or geographical limitations imposed. Every eligible SNA will remain on the panel for two years with a view to getting further employment. If they are not successful over that period of time in obtaining a further SNA position then they will be eligible for a redundancy payment. Furthermore, an SNA may opt out of this supplementary assignment panel at any point in time triggering the processing of his/her redundancy payment in line with the terms set out in the SNA redundancy scheme (DES Circular 58/06) or any revision of same that is applicable at that time.

With regard to the contractual position in respect of the working hours of SNAs, this is outlined in their contracts of employment which were agreed with the school management authorities and the relevant Trade Unions representing SNAs (IMPACT and SIPTU) prior to their introduction in 2005. The agreement reached between the parties found expression in the two circular letters issued in 2005 detailing the contracts of employment for SNAs.

Links to the SNA Contracts of Employment are as follows: Department of Education and Skills Circular SNA 12/05 (Post-Primary)

http://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/sna12_05.pdf

Department of Education and Skills Circular SNA 15/05 (Primary)

http://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Popular-forms/SNA-15-05-Contract-Form.pdf

The contracts were designed to be deliberately flexible to cater for the totally different spectrum of working hours across all the various schools, including primary, post-primary and special schools. No set hours were agreed but instead full-time SNAs are expected to work for the normal school hours in the school that they are working in, and in addition to be available for a period of time before and after school, in order to help with the reception and dispersal of children, and the preparation and tidying up of classrooms etc. These times should be agreed locally by the school management and will vary from school to school depending on the requirements of the school. SNAs who are employed in a part-time capacity are paid a pro-rata amount dependent upon their level of hours of employment. Part-time SNAs are paid on the agreed divisor rate for pay purposes for part-time SNAs which is 32 hours. I should point out that this divisor was also agreed with both the Management Authorities and the Trade Unions (IMPACT and SIPTU) that represent SNAs.

Furthermore, the contract of employment for SNAs in the post primary sector specifically requires that SNAs in the post primary sector are required to work the month of June.

In addition, all SNAs were required to be available for a number of days at the start and finish of each school term not exceeding 12 in total. Under the Croke Park Agreement it was agreed to introduce greater flexibility to the use of these 12 days. Accordingly, DES Circular 71/2011 was issued on 15 December 2011 which outlined that these 12 days now equate to 72 hours (pro-rata for part-time SNAs) to be used by schools as an additional bank of hours to be utilised and delivered outside of normal school opening hours and/or the normal school year.

Link to DES Circular 71/2011 is as follows:

http://www.education.ie/en/Circulars-and-Forms/Active-Circulars/cl0071_2011.pdf