Violet-Anne Wynne TD decries inadequate provision of SNAs for children with additional needs
Sinn Féin TD for Clare Violet-Anne Wynne has expressed deep concerns that children with additional needs will not be adequately supported in the upcoming school year 2021-2022.
Teachta Wynne said:
“The Department of Education has committed to introducing a frontloaded Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) allocation system to mainstream classes as per the School Inclusion Model. However, due the pandemic, this has been delayed another year.
“This means that schools across the country have been granted the same allocation of SNA support that was deemed fit from the last school year despite the fact that they may have incoming students with complex needs, and therefore need additional SNA supports. This is leaving many schools short of the adequate supports needed to meet the needs of the student population.
“If a school feels like they need more SNA allocation than they received in the previous school year, they were asked to apply for an ‘exceptional review’.
“According to a parliamentary question response I received, the Department of Education confirmed that 1,488 SNA Exceptional Review applications were received, and outcomes notified to schools. Of these, 778 schools received an increase amounting to 543.55 additional posts allocated. The number of appeals of outcomes announced was 145.
“However, according to a separate response, to the same question, the National Council for Special Education have informed me that a total number of 647 school applied for an exceptional review, 193 of them are still outstanding. That is a grand total of 193 schools across the country, 9 of which are here in Clare, that are unable to meet the needs of their incoming student population.
“The inconsistency of numbers from the Department versus the NCSE is concerning. The fact that there are so many schools inadequately resourced in also deeply concerning.
“A constituent who has direct experience with this reached out to my office and is, understandably, distressed and anxious in the knowledge that the school her son will be attending this year, is one of the schools awaiting review, and therefore knowing that her child’s has not been allocated the appropriate SNA support.
“The current gap of almost one-third of schools who requested additional SNA supports not having been assessed is unacceptable. Compounded by the fact that we know that there are 74 classrooms in Co. Clare with over 30 children – way over the EU and recommended average of 20, proves that over-crowding and understaffing continue to be issues that plague Ireland’s education system.
“Again, these are issues that the government is directly accountable for. We know, that there are calls for radical change in Early Childhood Care & Education; as well as the Childminder sector, and that these rallies are inextricably linked to the activism of teachers and SNAs for fair pay and conditions. Successive Governments of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have undervalued our children and those who educate them. It’s time for change. Our children deserve better and our educators deserve better. Sin é."