Bruton’s special needs assistant (SNA) plans win cautious welcome


snaIMPACT trade union, which represents almost 7,000 special needs assistants (SNAs), today (Tuesday) welcomed education minister Richard Bruton’s plans for a 7% increase in the number of SNAs, but said a continued expansion of the service will be required in the coming years to meet growing demand and respond to demographic changes.

IMPACT official Barry Cunningham said: “A 7% increase in the number of SNAs in the 2016-2017 school year would be welcome, but the demands on the service are continuing to outpace the resources available.

“We have also asked the education department to take immediate steps to address the uncertainty about the allocation of special needs assistants and, in particular, the timeliness of the publication of allocations in advance of the next school year. This is a perennial problem, which results in uncertainty for staff, schools and parents, and it needs to be addressed as a matter of priority.”

IMPACT highlighted these issues in a recent submission to the minister, which also called for immediate action on the inadequate recruitment of special educational needs organisers, who are responsible for SNA allocations.

The union also demanded a stronger emphasis on the development of the SNA role, including access to continuous professional development. To this end, it called for the rapid implementation of the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Social Protection’s report on the role of the special needs assistant.