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(Ireland) Dublin: 80 special needs students have no places for this fall

May 31, 2022, Irish Times: Number of special needs assistants in mainstream classes to be maintained Extra 1,100 posts to be allocated for special classes as plans for new front-loading model delayed

Schools will retain their existing allocation of 18,000 special needs assistants (SNAs) for mainstream classes in the coming academic year, while an extra 1,100 posts will be allocated for special classes, special schools and developing schools.

The allocation was confirmed in a Department of Education circular issued on Tuesday afternoon.

Controversial plans to introduce a new “front-loading” allocation model, based on school profiles, have been delayed pending further assessment of how it would meet the needs of students. While trade unions and disability groups broadly welcomed the announcement, they criticised the Department of Education for issuing details “at the last possible moment before the end of the current school year”.

Fórsa, the union that represents SNAs, said the additional posts would improve services for children with special educational needs while underpinning job security. However, its head of education, Andy Pike, added: “Once again, thousands of SNAs have been needlessly and anxiously waiting to know if they will have a job and an income come September. This must be the very last year that SNAs are treated this way.”

Mr Pike said education authorities must find a different way of managing SNA allocations to provide certainty and job security.

Adam Harris, chief executive of autism charity AsIAm, said there had been concern this year among parents of autistic children and young people with special needs over their continued access to SNA support….

Separately, Minister of State for special education Josepha Madigan has confirmed that the first step in the legal process to compel schools to open special classes has been completed.

It is estimated that there are at least 80 children in the capital who require special class places in September but do not have one.
Ms Madigan said the National Council for Special Education has formally announced there is insufficient special class capacity in primary schools and special school capacity in Dublin. The department will now engage further with the council in relation to accommodation issues and building works planned.

However, campaigners say it will take 12-18 months for special class places to be delivered, and want emergency legislation to fast-track the process.


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