Delegates at Fórsa trade union’s Education division conference, which is taking place online today, have backed a motion this afternoon seeking changes to the minimum qualifications required for special needs assistants (SNAs).
The union is due to attend the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) shortly for an engagement on its claim for enhanced SNA qualification requirements.
The union wants a relevant QQI level six qualification, or the equivalent, to be essential criteria when new SNAs are hired. Many schools already seek a level six qualification, and don’t appoint new SNAs unless they at least hold a level five QQI award.
In his report to conference, Fórsa official Shane Lambert said the WRC hearing presented a potential opportunity to properly reflect the skills and qualifications required to undertake SNA posts: “The current work practices for SNAs are not reflected in the existing minimum qualifications. We need this to be recognised.
“We do not believe there’s any other part of the civil or public service where the minimum education requirement is at a similar level, and at such disparity with current recruitment practice.
“A decision to revise the qualification requirements, that more accurately reflect the range of skills now required, would provide much-needed opportunities to professionalise the SNA role, complementing the review of the SNA contract due under the terms of the Building Momentum public service pay agreement,” he said.
The motion, proposed by the union’s North Dublin/North Leinster SNA branch, said the minimum qualifications does not represent the vast majority of SNAs: “These minimum entry qualifications are outdated and diminishes the role SNAs have in their schools.”
Andy Pike, who heads up the union’s Education Division, says the current minimum requirement of two junior cert passes doesn’t properly reflect the skills and expertise that SNA’s bring to the job: “’It’s quite insulting that a minimum entry to SNAs is three Ds in the junior cert. It’s high time that this is reviewed, which is why the union has pursued the claim for QQI level 6 qualification.”