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(Ireland) Autism parents worried about new plan for allocating school aides

Feb 24, 2020, Irish Times: Changes to SNA supports may be ‘Trojan horse’ for cuts, say school campaigners
Planned changes to the way special needs assistants (SNAs) are allocated to support tens of thousands of schoolchildren could be a “Trojan horse” for cuts, campaigners say. The Department of Education is planning to automatically “frontload” more than 10,000 SNAs to mainstream schools in advance of the new school year in September. It says the move means parents will no longer need to pay for a diagnosis of a disability or make a formal application in order to access support. Instead, schools will decide on allocations for children. The changes come at a time when the Department of Public Expenditure has been sounding alarm over the €500 million cost of the scheme, which has jumped by 50 per cent since 2011. Department of Education briefings with education partners in recent weeks have sparked fresh concern that students’ access to SNA support will be at risk of being cut in the future. ‘Rushed’ In a submission to the department, the autism charity AsIAm has called for the the new allocation model to be halted for at least 12 months to ensure the system is implemented in a “fair, transparent and equitable” way. Schools, management bodies and teacher and SNA representative organisations have also been forthright about the “rushed” nature of the changes in recent submissions to the department…. “Management bodies have been informed that no school will see a reduction in their allocation in September 2020,” it said, “Budget 2020 provided for an additional 1,064 SNAs, bringing the total number to over 17,000 by end 2020, which will, in part, support the rollout of the new allocation model.”… “We believe the department’s plan to rush the implementation of the new allocation model is a potential Trojan horse for cuts to supports for students into the future.” He said he voiced concerns to authorities two years ago that the needs of students with autism were being overlooked in the proposals and that families would not have enough voice in the system. …


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