27 May, 2019 - Minister McHugh announces almost 800 new special needs assistant posts being allocated to schools for September 2019

Some 15,950 SNAs supporting and working with children in schools – a record level of investment

About 37,500 pupils with additional care needs will be supported by SNAs in the coming school year 

The Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh T.D. today (Monday 27 May) announced almost 800 new special needs assistant posts will be allocated to schools from September.

And as the need for more additional supports in schools is confirmed in the early weeks of the school year, up to 130 additional posts are expected to be allocated by December. 

Minister McHugh said: “Special needs assistants are vital to the work of a school. They are dedicated, caring and hugely important in ensuring the Government can meet its goal of supporting children with special needs and helping them to reach their potential.

“I would like to take this opportunity to pay credit to the fantastic work that they do.”

The allocations being confirmed today means there will be a total of up to 15,950 special needs assistants working in schools by the end of 2019.

This is a 51% increase on the number of SNAs who were working in schools in 2011, when the figure stood at 10,575.

The Government will invest almost €560million in SNAs this year, as part of a total €1.9 Billion investment in special educational needs.

Schools are receiving confirmation of their allocations from the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) during the course of today.

This lives up to a commitment made by this Government in July 2017 that allocations would be confirmed before the end of May. In the last two years, budgeting for SNAs has been part of the normal Estimates process, ensuring that school principals, SNAs, parents and children are informed of the allocation in good time for the start of the next school year.

Minister McHugh said: “The record level of investment in special education and SNAs reflects the focus of this Government on children who will flourish and reach their potential when extra support is provided.

“More children with special educational needs than ever before are participating in school and this would not be possible without the unprecedented support of this Government, with a €1.9 billion investment in the sector.

“Our education system is increasingly better equipped to support children with special needs and support their full participation and progression.”

In 2011, 22,284 children had access to SNA support. With the increased investment and today’s confirmed allocations, about 37,500 pupils will receive that support.

Minister McHugh said: “SNAs are the bedrock of Government supports for children with special needs. It is their work day in, day out that is key to helping ensure that children can go to school and participate in education. The extra posts I am announcing today will ensure that every child who has additional care requirements and needs access to SNA support can receive this support.” 

The Minister also noted good progress in the development of the new School Inclusion Model. The pilot project – to run in 75 schools in parts of Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow – follows on from the National Council for Special Education’s Comprehensive Review of the SNA Scheme.

The School Inclusion Model provides an enhanced model of support in schools to provide better outcomes for students with additional needs.

Addressing the School Inclusion Model, Minister McHugh said: “I am happy to report that progress in developing the key elements of this pilot are well underway.

“I look forward to applying this new model of support and the opportunity it affords for review and evaluations to ensure we are providing the most effective and efficient service to students in our schools who require additional supports.”


Notes to editors

The NCSE will notify schools throughout the morning of Monday 27 May of their SNA allocations for the coming 2019/20 school year. Details of these allocations will be published on its website, www.ncse.ie, at 12pm today.

Schools were informed last week to expect the confirmation of allocation on Monday 27 May.

The allocations are 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 school places in September. 

The total number of posts being allocated for September 2019 is 15,822 – an increase of 792 on current figures.

Additional allocations will be made, as required, up to December 2019. It is expected that a total of 15,950 SNA posts will be allocated to schools by the end of the year.

Supports for Children with Special Educational Needs

In 2019 the Department of Education and Skills will invest €1.9 billion in special education, almost one fifth of the overall education budget. That is a budget increase of 49 % since 2011.

The number of SNAs in schools at the end of this year will have increased by 51%, from 10,575 to 15,950, since 2011.

The number of special classes across the country has increased by almost 167 % from 548 in 2011 to 1,459 for the 2018/19 school year.

For September 2019, a further 169 special classes are being opened.

The new model for allocating special education teachers to schools has been successfully introduced, with 13,400 special education teachers in mainstream schools, ensuring children with special educational needs can access additional teaching supports.

School Inclusion Model

A pilot of a new service model, the School Inclusion Model, for students with special educational and additional care needs involving up to 75 participating schools in the Community Healthcare Organisation (CHO) 7 area – Dublin, Kildare, Wicklow – will take place over the 2019/20 school year.

The key elements of the School Inclusion Model are:

  • Continuation of the In-school Therapy Demonstration Project providing a tiered model of speech and language and occupational therapy support for schools and students.
  • A new frontloading allocation model for special needs assistants (SNAs). A profiling system for special education teaching will be used to allocate resources, breaking the link with the need for an assessment.
  • The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) will be expanded to provide more intensive support. Additional psychologists will be recruited, giving greater access to the full range of in-school supports for students with complex educational needs.
  • SNAs will be offered a new national training programme. It will be designed to equip them with the skills and knowledge to support students with additional care needs. The training will emphasise the need for students to develop independence and resilience.
  • A new national nursing service for children with complex medical needs in schools. The new service will complement current provision provided through community based services.
  • A regional support team will be set up for schools in the pilot, under the auspices of the NCSE. The team will include four speech and language therapists, two occupational therapists and four behaviour support practitioners.