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 for one year. 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.
In relation to Special Education Teachers, a new model for allocating Special Education Teachers to mainstream schools was introduced from September 2017, based on the profiled needs of schools.
The allocations were updated for schools with effect from September 2019.
DES Circulars 007 and 008 2019, stated that the allocations being made for 2019 would initially remain in place for a minimum of two years.
The NCSE Policy advice ‘A Proposed new Model for Allocating Teaching Resources for Students with Special Educational Needs (2014)’ on which the SET allocation model is based, recommended that the additional special educational teaching supports be left in place initially for a two-year period, however, as the new model becomes embedded in the system, this may be extended to three years.
The matter as to whether the Special Education Teacher allocations should be updated for the 2021/22 school year, or whether they should be maintained for another year, in order to minimise allocation disruption for schools, is currently being considered.