Posted by Schooldays Newshound, on 30/05/2018. Tags: Educaiton And Politics Teachers Parenting
The Minister for Education and Skills, Mr. Richard Bruton T.D., today (30th May 2018), welcomed a Review into the Special Needs Assistant (SNA) Scheme by the National Council of Special Education (NCSE) and committed to developing proposals for implementing its recommendations.
Ensuring children with special educational needs are given the opportunity to fulfil their full potential is a key priority for this government. There will be 15,000 Special Needs Assistants working in our schools come this September. This is a 42% increase on 2011, when the number of SNAs stood at 10,575. The Government now invests €524m in SNAs annually, as part of a total €1.75 billion investment that we invest in special educational needs overall.
The Review set out to ensure that the Scheme is achieving the best outcomes possible for children with special educational needs. The NCSE has found that the SNA scheme is greatly valued by parents, students and schools and works well in meeting the needs of students including those with care needs such as toileting, mobility and feeding.
However, the NCSE also found that there is some frustration regarding the narrow focus of the scheme which they suggest should be expanded, for example, to enable SNAs to meet student learning, emotional and social needs; and/or to include students without a diagnosis of disability but who have additional needs; and to deliver speech and language and/or occupational and/or physiotherapy programmes.
In light of these findings, the NCSE has recommended A better model of support is required. The review finds that the Scheme in its current form acts as a blunt instrument to address the wide range and variety of needs with which students present. The new model, would be frontloaded with supports, similar to the approach taken with the Resource Teacher Allocation Model introduced to schools in September 2017 and would see the majority of support posts allocated ahead of time, removing the need for assessments and allowing for earlier intervention.
Students should have access to a continuum of support, based on their identified need at the time. A staffing and funding package for Special Schools and classes with a baseline level of supports for special settings and ring-fenced funding for therapy services would be required to support this.
New arrangements for oversight, monitoring and evaluation; on guidance for schools, parents and others; on an appeals process; on a proposed National training programme to develop school capacity and on the development of an implementation plan.
Existing and new care support staff should be renamed “Inclusion Support Assistants”
Committing to developing proposals for a new frontloaded model for allocating supports to schools for children with special educational needs who have additional care needs today,
Minister Bruton said: “This Government is committed to ensuring that children with special educational needs are supported and given every opportunity to fulfil their full potential.
“Special Needs Assistants play a key role in supporting children who have additional care needs to attend school and participate in education and I want to commend the 14,060 SNAs currently in our schools for the fantastic work they do. There is no doubt that without SNAs, many of the 34,600 students currently accessing SNA support would not be able to attend school. This support is very much valued by students, parents and schools, as they provide an indispensable service which is key to ensure participation of students with additional care needs in education.
“Following on from my announcement last week that there will be a total of 15,000 Special Needs Assistants working in our schools by the end of 2018, I am very pleased to welcome the NCSE policy advice recommendations.
“It is clear from the NCSE’s advice that the State’s existing response to meeting the needs of students with additional care needs should be broadened to offer a more comprehensive and tailored response to meeting children’s needs. As with the new allocation model for special education teachers which was introduced in 2017, it will be vital to engage closely with Parent and Disability representatives as well as education stakeholders at all stages of the development of a new model. It will also be necessary to include all relevant Health stakeholders.
“My Department will now begin to develop proposals to implement the recommendations of the Comprehensive review of the SNA Scheme. I want to commend the following, NCSE for their work on completing the Comprehensive Review of the Scheme, Eamon Stack and members of the working group established to propose an alternative and improved model of care needs support and also the working group established to consider concerns around the provision of care supports for children with complex medical needs.”
Source: Department of Education and Skills