A core recommendation of the National Council for Special Education’s (NCSE) Review of the Special Needs Assistant (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.
Under the frontloaded allocation model, no schools would receive an allocation of SNA support for mainstream classes which is less than their existing 2019/20 mainstream SNA allocation on the introduction of the frontloaded model and some schools will gain.
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 i.e. to the start of the 2021/22 school 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. This meant that no school received an allocation less then what they had on the date of issue of this Circular and existing SNAs in standard SNA posts could continue in these posts.
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 DES 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 which is available to schools throughout the current school year.
Schools will be advised, as soon as possible, in relation to the manner in which allocations of SNA support will be made for mainstream school classes for the 2021/22 school year.