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Crowe raises St Mark’s SNA cuts in the Dáil

7 July, 2011 - by Seán Crowe TD

Speaking in the Dáil today Sinn Féin’s Education Spokesperson Deputy Seán Crowe raised the issue of cuts to special needs assistants at St Mark’s National School in Tallaght.

St Mark’s school is set to lose seven of its thirteen SNA’s when government cuts take affect in September.

Speaking after raising the issue in the Dáil today Deputy Crowe said:

“Cuts to SNAs in schools across the state are having a far reaching and significant impact on some of our most vulnerable children. I believe they are wrong and the implications for children with special educational needs and behavioural difficulties cannot be overstated.

“It is an issue that this Government must address and they cannot be allowed to cut essential services from schools where SNAs have proven an invaluable aid to many thousands of young people.

“The loss of SNA’s was starkly illustrated in the cuts that have been imposed on St Mark’s National School in my own local area of Tallaght

“From September onwards, this large National School on the outskirts of Dublin will have its current allocation of 13 SNAs cut to 6 – a decision that has effectively gutted what is an essential support for children who have a range of learning and health difficulties.

“I cannot understand how a reduced number of SNAs will be expected to cover Speech and Language Classes, where many of the pupils have emotional and behavioural issues associated with their disability.

“There seems to be an inconsistency and a lack of forethought in understanding how these cuts will affect the lives of children. Without an SNA’s support, how is a teacher expected to cope with pupil who is dependent on Palliative Care or another who has multiple disabilities, and confined to a wheelchair?

“How is a child who has a mild learning disability and various impairments expected to keep up with his or her peers? Is it fair to expect a Down¹s Syndrome pupil with behavioural difficulties, or a visually impaired pupil with Assistive Technology and a tendency to fall and trip to cope without support or special assistance?

“These cuts are hitting the most vulnerable.

Schools like St Marks are also facing a double whammy with 49% of its 560 pupils, between the ages of 4 – 9, not speaking English as their first language yet additional cuts are resulting in the loss of specialised teachers who support these pupils. Classes in the school range between 28 – 30, and the loss of SNAs will have consequences for teachers who will find it increasingly difficult to manage such large numbers of children with different abilities.

“The families of special needs children rely on the support of schools to alleviate some of the pressures associated with having a child who has a learning or behavioural disability.

“These cuts to SNAs, who have made such a positive contribution to our education system, mean a lack of support for children who will stand little hope of being maintained and integrated into the mainstream school system.” ENDS

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