THERE are now more Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) than there are gardaí, Deputy Margret Murphy O’Mahony (FF) said the Dáil was told reently.
Speaking during Question Time, she said as a former SNA, she acknowledged the fantastic work SNAs do. ‘They are a huge part of the education system,’ she said. ‘I welcome the increase in special needs provision in recent years. The transformation of special education over the past 20 years, in which successive Governments have played a part, has been remarkable. We can all be very proud of this.’
There is concern, she said, that the Minister for Finance, Pascal Donohoe, believes this is a bad thing as he is reported as having expressed alarm about the sharp increase in the cost of education for children with special needs – our most vulnerable children – which is costing the State more than the higher education system.
In response, Education Minister Richard Bruton said he could assure Deputy Murphy O’Mahony that the Minister for Finance is one of the strongest supporters of investment in special education needs, in respect of which provision has increased since 2011. ‘Even in the most difficult times, in 2011 22,000 children were provided with SNA support. SNA provision now stands at 34,000, which means an additional 12,000 children are now in receipt of SNA support,’ he said.