Fórsa hosted up to 800 members at last Saturday’s #RespectForSNAs seminar. The online event focused on minimum educational qualifications for special needs assistants (SNAs), the need for continuing professional development and how best to train and prepare SNAs to support students within a more inclusive education system.
Fórsa’s head of education Andy Pike said the seminar was the largest and most significant national discussion on the education and training needs of SNAs in decades, and reflected overwhelming support for changing the essential SNA qualification and establishing a new accredited framework for continuing professional development.
He outlined the increasing complexity of the SNA role, how it has developed since service was first established in 1979, and how current perception of role is ‘outdated’.
“There will be over 18,000 SNAs working in schools from Sept 2023. They are the largest public service group in a single grade with no career development or promotional opportunities.
“They are the only group of front line staff without a realistic entry qualification. The campaign seeks to change the status quo. We will now increase our efforts to secure a Level 6 entry qualification,” he said.
Today’s seminar was the largest and most significant national discussion for decades on the education and training needs of our Special Needs Assistants. Overwhelming support for changing the essential qualification and setting up a new accredited CPD framework. pic.twitter.com/OiKdvLDOpI
— andy pike (@apike1) December 4, 2021
Fórsa SNA rep Linda O’Sullivan told delgates: “As an SNA I know the value of my role and the daily difference I make to the lives of the students I care for and their families. I am entirely aware of the lack of respect towards SNAs and our role and I feel this stems from the gap between the educational requirements to become an SNA and the reality.”
The official belief, that the current level of education is sufficient, is both insulting and misrepresents the educational standard of most SNAs across the country.
The campaign also hosted a briefing for Oireachtas members on Wednesday (8th December), and the #RespectForSNAs hashtag trended strongly on Twitter throughout last Saturday’s seminar, reflecting both the large attendance and engagement with the seminar content.
Fórsa official Shane Lambert spoke on Kildare FM on Monday (6th December) about the seminar. He praised the contributions, in particular those from SNA members: “It only serves to highlight the broad range of skills and abilities they possess,” he said.
You can watch the full seminar HERE or in the panel below.