Fórsa today (Friday) has issued an update to its SNA members about the proposed new ‘Frontloading Allocation Model’, following a meeting this week between Fórsa and officials from the Department of Education and Skills.
The new model changes the current application process to an allocation model under which schools are allocated posts under a new set of criteria. Fórsa’s head of education Andy Pike explained that Fórsa has not agreed to the introduction of the new system: “We remain concerned that SNAs must be solely focused on meeting the needs of their own students and must be directed to SEN duties.
“We are now examining the proposed school assessment process to ascertain the extent to which it could effectively ring-fence SNAs to special education needs (SEN)-related work. The union is opposed to SNAs becoming an all-school resource and the allocation of non-SEN work to SNAs would breach the national contract and associated circulars,” he said.
We remain concerned that SNAs must be solely focused on meeting the needs of their own students.
Mr Pike said Fórsa will be submitting a formal response to the department seeking clarification on its proposals, and that the union would be holding further discussions with the DES over the coming weeks. He said the main issues the union will be discussing with the Department are:
- The new allocation model would affect all mainstream classes but not special classes or special schools. This would therefore affect 10,000 of the 17,000 SNA posts in the sector in September
- This change would mean that students would not have to obtain a diagnosis to qualify for SNA support, posts would be allocated to each school based on an assessment of current student needs, test data, socio economic factors and gender
- The allocations would last for 2 years (rising to 3 years) providing certainty for schools, parents and staff
- A new assessment process would take place within schools to allocate SNA support to individual students
- SNA posts would be allocated only the basis of either a half-time (0.5wte) post or a full-time post ending the practice of fragmenting SNA jobs
- No school will lose SNA hours or posts for the first 2 years of the allocation, the additional 1,000 posts announced in the budget will be distributed to schools as an addition to the 2019 NCSE allocation
- More SNA posts can be allocated to a school during the 3 year assessment cycle if new students require support.
Mr Pike added that Fórsa’s Education Divisional Executive has already decided that a consultation ballot will take place to enable SNA members to express their view on the proposal, ensuring that any final decision on to accept or reject the new allocation model will be taken by Fórsa’s SNA members.
Any final decision on to accept or reject the new allocation model will be taken by Fórsa’s SNA members in a ballot.
He added: “What we have already made very clear to the DES is that:
- We support the proposal to increase employment security through moving to a 3 year allocation period and believe that this may lead to a permanent SNA service and permanent jobs in each school
- We support the proposal to end fragmentation, something we have long argued for, by allocating new SNA posts only as half time or full time. If this system is introduced, existing part time SNAs must be offered additional hours in order of seniority
- We do not support breaking the link between an SNA and an SEN student
- We do not support SNAs being used as an all school resource as they must continue to work on SEN related issues
- We are concerned that schools do not have the capacity to administer this new scheme properly
- Despite the commitments given that the Schools Inspectorate will be able to ensure that staff are not misdirected away from SEN work, we remain to be convinced that there are sufficient safeguards within the new system to prevent further exploitation of SNAs
- The current Schools Inclusion Model Pilot in South Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow covers 75 schools, this pilot should be fully evaluated before the new allocation system is introduced.
The union plans to host a number of information meetings for SNA members, about the new allocation model, in the near future.