Education minister announces appointments of 975 additional Special Needs Assistants
The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton TD, has announced the provision of 975 additional Special Needs Assistants which will be available for allocation to schools over the period September to December 2017, a 7.5% increase, in order to meet the level of assessed demand.
This will bring the total number of Special Needs Assistants to 13,990, at a total gross annual cost of €458m. The number of Special Needs Assistants has increased by 32%, from 10,575 to 13,990 since 2011. This increase reflects the growing participation of children with special educational needs and will support their full participation and progression within the educational system.
In 2017 the Department of Education and Skills will invest €1.68 billion in special educational needs, almost one fifth of the Department’s entire budget. This spend has increased by over 30% since 2011.
The announcement reflects the Programme for Government commitment to ensure that all children with special educational needs can maximise their potential.
The Minister also announced that following the recent receipt of a progress report from the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), on the Comprehensive Assessment of the SNA Scheme currently being undertaken by the NCSE, he has requested the NCSE to establish a working group, comprising relevant stakeholders, to assist in proposing an improved model for providing care supports to provide the best possible outcomes for students with special educational needs who have additional care needs. This Government is committed to providing the best possible outcomes for the children and students in this area, and this process is the best way of ensuring that we deliver on that.
This process in respect of SNAs follows a similar process which was led by the NCSE in respect of resource teachers, the other main support for children with special educational needs, over recent years, which culminated with the development and rollout of the new model of allocating resource teachers earlier this year. Investment in resource teachers has also increased very significantly since 2011. In broad terms, Special Needs Assistants are responsible for looking after the care needs of children with special needs, while resource teachers are responsible for supporting them in their educational needs.
This Working Group will commence its work upon its appointment and the work will run in tandem with the completion of the Comprehensive Assessment. It is intended that the reports of the Working group and of the Assessment will be completed in Spring 2018.
Minister Bruton said, “The aim of this Government is to continue to use our economic success to ensure that children with special educational needs can be supported to fully participate in schools and fulfil their potential.
“In the worst years of the crash, when the public purse declined massively, investment in special education was not only rightly protected, but it was significantly increased – the increase in total investment in this area has been more than 30% since 2011. It is essential that we continue to provide for children with special educational needs so they can reach their full potential.
“I measure success in this area by looking at the number of children with SEN that are fully participating and progressing through the school system. More children with Special Educational Needs are participating than ever before and we are investing more than ever before to support this. In 2017 my Department will invest €1.68 billion in special education, almost one fifth of the entire education budget.
“Today I am very pleased that 975 additional Special Needs Assistants will be available to allocate to schools by the end of this year. That’s a 7.5% increase to meet the demands for the new school year. It brings the total number of SNAs to nearly 14,000 – the highest ever number of SNAs.
“In parallel, the NCSE are conducting comprehensive work to examine whether the current SNA scheme represents the best possible means of supporting the additional needs of children with special needs. I look forward to receiving the full reports of this process when that work is complete. This Government is committed to providing the best possible outcomes for the children and students in this area, and this process is the best way of ensuring that we deliver on that.
“Special needs assistants have continued to play a key role in helping children to participate and progress. The extra posts I am announcing today will ensure that every child that needs access to SNA support can receive this support. That is my priority."
The NCSE will now proceed to notify schools of their SNA allocations for the coming 2017/18 school year and will publish details of these allocations on their website www.ncse.ie