Almost 1000 new special needs assistant posts were allocated to schools in late 2019. The pilot project – 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 and provides an enhanced model of support in schools to provide better outcomes for students with additional needs.
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 front-loading 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.
The total number of SNA posts allocated for September 2019 was 15,822 – an increase of 792 on previous figures.