Fórsa has welcomed the decision by the Department of Education and Skills (DES) to defer the new allocation model for Special Needs Assistants (SNA) for a year. The model will instead be rolled out for the 2021/2022 school term. The Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh TD, made the announcement yesterday (Thursday).
Responding to the decision, Fórsa’s head of education Andy Pike said: “The decision to defer the roll-out is the right one. We supported frontloading in principle as it will provide greater job security and security of income for SNAs, many of whom cannot access full time hours of work.
The pause in implementation now provides the space for further consultation and dialogue on the nature of the proposals.
“However, there were many other aspects of the proposal that needed further development including how to maintain the link between the special education needs student and their SNA. The pause in implementation now provides the space for further consultation and dialogue on the nature of the proposals.
“The Covid-19 crisis has halted schools’ capacity to prepare for the new system which requires staff to undergo training and continuing professional development (CDP). It makes sense to pause the process now and prepare the roll out after the current crisis has passed, and when SNAs and students are back in a normalised school environment,” he said.
The 1,060 additional SNA posts announced in the last budget will be available for allocation during the next school year from September 2020.
Mr Pike said schools will retain the same number of SNAs for mainstream classes, removing the risk of reductions in hours or redundancy for SNAs in mainstream schools. In special classes and special schools, SNAs will continue to be allocated using the existing allocation model through an assessment of needs.
He added, “The 1,060 additional SNA posts announced in the last budget will be available for allocation during the next school year from September 2020. Schools can apply for additional SNA resources where they have new students with additional care needs.”
Mr Pike said the union plans to put the final allocation model to a ballot of SNA members. That ballot will take place prior to September 2021.