Extra 610 SNA posts a “major boost” for children with special education needs

Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’ Sullivan TD, issued an invitation to unions and management to discuss the issue of SNA post fragmentation in April.
Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’ Sullivan TD, pictured (centre) with IMPACT deputy general secretary Kevin Callinan and Gina O’Brien, chair of IMPACT’s Education division at the union conference in April.

IMPACT welcomes additional posts and a new agreement on SNA appointment process.

IMPACT has welcomed the announcement this afternoon by the Department of Education and Skills that 610 additional special needs assistant (SNA) posts are to be allocated in the new school year commencing in September. The union represents over 6,000 SNAs nationwide.

The increase is in addition to the 365 additional posts announced by the Government in last October’s budget, and brings the number of whole time SNA posts to 11,820 from September 2015.

IMPACT’s deputy general secretary, Kevin Callinan, said the increase in the number of posts was welcome news both for SNAs and for the families of children with special education needs.

“This is exceptionally good news on a number of fronts. It provides a major boost for children with special education needs. It expands the existing service and will help to meet growing demand. This will be welcome news for parents of those children too, as it will mean that there are more education resources available to them,” he said.

Mr Callinan added, “The special needs assistant service has transformed the education landscape by providing a quality experience of mainstream education for children with special education needs.”

Mr Callinan said that the number of children going to school had grown by 50,000 since 2009, which means a growing number of children are in need of the SNA service. “The economic crisis meant that the service was cut significantly in 2010, and there has been an inevitable uncertainty each year as news of the following year’s allocation was announced. So the creation of almost a thousand new posts since last October is very significant and very welcome,” he said.

New agreement

Mr Callinan said the announcement of the new posts was timely, as IMPACT had recently finalised an agreement with the Department of Education and Skills on a revised circular to deal with a dispute over the fragmentation of special needs assistants (SNA) posts.

The Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’ Sullivan TD, issued an invitation to unions and management to discuss the issue when she addressed IMPACT’s Education divisional conference in April.

The new agreement means that schools that receive an additional allocation of SNA hours (or posts) must first offer the additional work to existing part-time SNAs in their employment – in order of their seniority – before the employer has recourse to the arrangements for assigning SNAs.

In a recent letter to SNAs, IMPACT assistant general secretary Dessie Robinson explained “In essence, this means that before an employer opts to recruit a further person as an SNA(s), they must ensure that all existing part-time SNAs in their employment, in order of seniority, have been offered a full-time position in the school.”