There will be 1,100 new special needs assistant (SNA) posts in the 2022-2023 school year, with SNA allocations in mainstream classes frozen for the third successive year.
The new posts will be created for special classes and new and developing schools, with increased special school allocations where additional needs have been identified.
The expansion in SNA provision is set out in Circular 0035/2022, which issued this afternoon (31st May).
The circular also confirms that the ‘frontloading’ allocation model will not be introduced this year. The education department has been working on the new model but says it can’t be certain that the effect on school allocations would meet the needs of students. So it has decided against proceeding now to allow more time for work to assess how frontloading would work in practice.
Schools are still dealing with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and are also addressing the needs of nearly 6,000 Ukrainian refugee students, some of whom have additional care needs. Fórsa supports the decision not to proceed with frontloading.
Whilst the department has not dropped the proposal to introduce frontloading, it’s clear that the model cannot be implemented in the short term. As a consequence, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) will be asked to develop a mechanism to review SNA allocations in mainstream classes on a pilot basis during the 2022-2023 school year.
The union has already informed the department that any new mechanism to assess SNA allocations will not be accepted unless it contains a robust redeployment scheme.
As part of this process, Fórsa will be consulted before any pilot commences. The union has already informed the department that any new mechanism to assess SNA allocations will not be accepted unless it contains a robust redeployment scheme, which would finally end the uncertainty and precarious employment experienced by members.
But, with 1,100 new posts being introduced into schools from September, there is no need for any SNA to fear for their job.
The circular makes it clear that requests for additional SNAs already submitted through the exceptional review process will be dealt with prior to the start of the new school year. Thereafter, schools can still request an exceptional review under new terms, which could vary the allocation depending on the results of the review.
Schools will also be informed that they should contact the NCSE if they believe there are no longer any additional care needs for an SNA to meet in the school. Fórsa will be seeking the redeployment of any member affected by this measure, which arises because no NCSE assessments have been conducted in mainstream classes for the last three years.
It is not expected that schools will use this mechanism but, if they are, the union will be seeking agreed redeployment arrangements to ensure existing staff have the option of moving to a school where a vacancy or a new post exists.
This must be the very last year that SNAs are treated in such a manner. We need to find a different way of managing SNA allocations to provide certainty and job security.
Fórsa’s head of education Andy Pike said the allocations had again been issued at the last possible moment before the end of term, leaving thousands of SNAs needlessly and anxiously waiting to know if they have a job in September.
“This must be the very last year that SNAs are treated in such a manner. We need to find a different way of managing SNA allocations to provide certainty and job security. SNAs are the only group of public servants who have to wait every year for confirmation that they will still have a job at the end of the summer,” he said.
Andy said that some SNAs had gone through their entire career with this annual uncertainty.
“It’s time it stopped. Fórsa has told the education department that we will not accept the continuation of these arrangements next year. There is now a pressing need to establish agreed redeployment arrangements to finally provide job security for all SNAs regardless of any future changes to the allocation model,” he said.
Fórsa has also welcomed the additional posts coming into our schools, and had agreed that it is not the right time to introduce a new allocation model.
“We will be discussing these issues with the department and the NCSE over the coming weeks and members will be kept informed of any developments,” said Andy.
Read the Circular HERE.
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