18 May, 2018 - Nearly 1,000 extra SNAs for new school year – Minister Bruton

Government honours commitment to allocate earlier in the year  

Over 7% increase in number of SNAs to meet level of need 

The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton TD, today (Friday the 18th of May) announced the provision of 800 additional Special Needs Assistants which will be allocated to schools for the beginning of the next school year, with a further 140 expected to be allocated over the period September to December 2018, an over 7% increase on last year, in order to meet the level of assessed demand. 

This Government is committed to ensuring that children with special educational needs are supported and given every opportunity to fulfil their full potential. Special Needs Assistants play a key role in supporting children who have additional care needs to attend school and participate in education. Today’s announcement will ensure every child who needs SNA support, will receive it. 

Following on from today’s allocation, there will be a total of 15,000 Special Needs Assistants working in our schools. This is a 42% increase on 2011, when the number of SNAs stood at 10,575. The Government now invests €524m in SNAs annually, as part of a total €1.75 billion investment that we invest in special educational needs overall. 

This increased investment reflects the priority which the government has put on helping children with special educational needs to fulfil their potential. It also reflects the growing participation of children with special educational needs in the education system and the capacity of our education system to better support their full participation and progression. In 2011, 22,284 children had access to SNA support, with today’s announcement, an estimated 36,000 pupils will receive such support. 

In July 2017, the Minister gave a commitment that funding for SNA posts would be dealt with as part of the normal Estimates process, meaning that schools would be informed of their allocation for the beginning of the next school year before the end of May 2018. Today’s announcement honours that commitment and will make a real difference to schools and SNAs in planning for the year ahead. 

In September 2016, the National Council for Special Education were requested to lead a comprehensive review of the Special Needs Assistant Scheme to identify and recommend how, in the future, additional care needs of students, over and above those needs that could be reasonable expected to be managed by teaching staff, should be met and to identify and recommend the most appropriate form of support options to provide better outcomes for students with Special Educational Needs who have additional care needs having regard to the significant amount of State investment in this area. The NCSE has submitted that full and final report of the SNA Comprehensive Review to the Department and its contents are currently under consideration. 

Speaking today from Leugh National School in Thurles, Tipperary Minister Bruton said: 

“The aim of this Government is to ensure that children with special educational needs can be supported to fully participate in schools and fulfil their potential. Special Needs Assistants play a key role in ensuring this and I would like to firstly take this opportunity to pay credit to the fantastic work that they do. 

“More children with Special Educational Needs are participating than ever before and we are investing more than ever before to support this. In 2018 my Department will invest in the region of €1.75 billion in special education, almost one fifth of the entire education budget and 39% increase on 2011. 

“Today I am very pleased that 800 additional Special Needs Assistants will be allocated to schools for the beginning of the next school year, with a further 140 expected to be allocated by the end of this year. That’s a 7% increase to meet the demands for the new school year. It will bring the total number of SNAs to 15,000. 

“I am also extremely pleased to be able to make this announcement this month, in keeping with the commitment made last year to inform schools of their September 2018 allocation by the end of May. By dealing with funding for SNA posts as part of the normal annual Estimates process, I am able to announce the allocations at a time when they can give certainty to school communities at the earliest opportunity. 

“Special Needs Assistants have continued to play a key role in helping children with special educational needs who have additional care needs to attend school and participate in education. The extra posts I am announcing today will ensure that every child that needs access to SNA support can receive this support.” 

The NCSE will now proceed to notify schools of their SNA allocations for the coming 2018/19 school year and will publish details of these allocations on their website www.ncse.ie today. 

Notes to editors

This decision is being made now to ensure that each child that is assessed as needing SNA support receives access to such support for the commencement of the new school year. This will ensure that children with special educational needs may be enrolled and take up their places in September. 

Supports for Children with Special Educational Needs

In 2018 the Department of Education and Skills will invest €1.75 billion in special education, almost one fifth of the entire education budget. This is an over 39% increase since 2011.

The number of Special Needs Assistants will increase by 42%, from 10,575 to 15,000 since 2011.  

The number of Special Classes has increased by 138% with 756 new special classes opened since 2011, bringing the total number of such classes to over 1,300. The NCSE expected to open an additional 155 special classes for the 2018/19 school year. 

The new model for allocating Resource Teachers to schools has been successfully introduced, with 900 additional teacher allocated from September 2017 to support the model and to ensure that children with special needs can access additional teaching supports.