Education | Availability of special needs teachers and SNAs
To ask the Minister for Education the extent to which special needs teachers and SNAs continue to be available to the extent required in County Kildare and all areas throughout the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
I would like to thank the Deputy for the question and would like to advise the following:
Enabling children with special educational needs to receive an education is a priority for this Government.
For 2023, the spend by my Department on special education will be substantially increased by over 10% on last year, meaning that for 2023 my Department will spend over €2.6 billion on special education.
This level of educational funding and support is unprecedented and represents in excess of 27% of the Department’s total allocation for 2023.
This includes additional teaching and care supports. It also includes funding for the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) for an additional 54 psychologists to provide services to special schools and special classes.
In 2023 the number of teaching and SNA posts in our schools will increase with an additional 686 teachers and a further 1,194 special needs assistants in our schools next year.
For the first time ever we will have over 19,000 teachers working in the area of special education and over 20,000 Special needs assistants. Together we have almost 40,000 qualified and committed people in our schools who are focused wholly and exclusively on supporting children with special educational needs.
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has responsibility for coordinating and advising on the education provision for children with special educational needs nationwide including the allocation of SNAs and reviews.
The Special Needs Assistant (SNA) scheme is designed to provide schools with additional adult support staff who can assist children with special educational needs who also have additional and significant care needs. Such support is provided in order to facilitate the attendance of those pupils at school and also to minimise disruption to class or teaching time for the pupils concerned, or for their peers, and with a view to developing their independent living skills.
SNAs are not allocated to individual children but to schools as a school based resource. The deployment of SNAs within schools is a matter for the individual Principal/Board of Management of the school. SNAs should be deployed by the school in a manner which best meets the care support requirements of the children enrolled in the school for whom SNA support has been allocated.
It is a matter for schools to allocate support as required, and on the basis of individual need, which allows schools flexibility in how the SNA support is utilised.
The school can apply to the NCSE for a review of its SNA allocation if it is insufficient to meet the needs of its students.
Detailed information on the NCSE Exceptional Review process is published on the NCSE website. https://ncse.ie/application-for-sna-exceptional-review.
The NCSE will endeavour to respond to all applications for Exceptional Review received as expediently as possible. The Exceptional Review process for mainstream allocations will be available to schools throughout the 2022/23 school year.
The NCSE has developed an appeal mechanism for schools who are not satisfied with the outcome of the Exceptional Review. Local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) will provide information and clarification to schools on the outcome where requested. Where schools wish to appeal the outcome of the review, they must do so using the prescribed form provided by the NCSE https://ncse.ie/ncse-appeals-proces
The Special Education Teaching (SET) allocation provides a single unified allocation for special educational support teaching needs to each school, based on each school’s educational profile. This model has replaced the previous model of allocating resource teaching support and learning support to schools based on a diagnosis of disability.
The Special Education Teacher allocation, allows schools to provide additional teaching support for all pupils who require such support in their schools and for schools to deploy resources based on each pupil’s individual learning needs.
The allocation gives greater flexibility to schools as to how they can deploy their resources, to take account of the actual learning needs pupils have, as opposed to being guided by a particular diagnosis of disability, and schools are guided as to how they should make such allocation decisions.
The school will take account of learning needs of children as evidenced by performance in schools but also supported where relevant by information provided regarding the nature of a condition that a pupil may have.
A process is available where schools can seek a review of their SET allocation by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), including the utilisation of their allocations. Detailed information on the NCSE review process is published on the NCSE website https://ncse.ie/special-education-teachers
All schools have the contact details of their local SENO, and the SENO is available to offer assistance and advice to the school. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child’s special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.
The Department does not have a role in making individual school determinations and a school should liaise with the NCSE directly in the event that additional supports are required.
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