BY KIERAN O’MAHONY
IN the wake of the announcement this week that the government is to approve up to 610 additional Special Needs Assistant (SNA) posts, a West Cork councillor has said that the uncertainty about SNA posts could have been avoided.
Fianna Fáil Cllr Margaret Murphy O’Mahony said that it was unfair that some SNAs in West Cork were left in the dark when schools finished up recently for the summer holidays without knowing if they had a job to go back to.
‘Usually SNAs are informed well in advance of the end of the school year if there are changes in the numbers required in each school which can mean they are out of work come September. At least this way, they know where they stand before the summer break and they have then time to make arrangements and can apply for posts in other schools. This uncertainty adds a lot of anxiety to the parents of children who need extra support in the classroom,’ said Cllr Murphy O’Mahony.
‘While I welcome this announcement I am a bit concerned about the review aspect of the scheme which Minister O’Sullivan mentioned, as this itself adds a note of uncertainty to her announcement. It doesn’t go as far as I had hoped and there is no certainty for SNA’s, principals or even the children themselves.’
The Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’ Sullivan said that from this September there will be 11,820 whole-time SNA posts available in primary and post-primary schools.
‘Every child with an assessed care need will receive access to SNA support. This is an important principle and will continue in the 2015/16 school year. The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) will provide details of the allocations later today which can be accessed on www.ncse.ie,’ said Minister O’ Sullivan.
‘In recent weeks my Department has also issued a circular regarding the employment of SNAs. This circular will go a long way to address concerns about casualization and low hour contracts that have arisen within the profession and which I addressed at the IMPACT education sector conference at Easter.
This circular builds on the introduction of a supplementary assignment panel process for SNAs, which was introduced two years ago, giving SNAs the alternative of redeployment instead of redundancy. Both measures will operate this summer, giving SNAs greater stability, and a better chance of a full-hours contract.’
Labour Deputy Michael McCarthy also welcomed the Cabinet approval to increase the cap on the number of SNAs in the coming year by 610.
‘Special Needs Assistants play an important role in schools across West Cork, and this extra allocation will help ensure that every child who has been deemed to require SNA support will get that support. This is positive news that will have a very real impact on the learning lives of children,’ said Deputy McCarthy.