New Training Programme for Special Needs Assistants

special needs training course

The launch of a new National Training Programme for Special Needs Assistants was recently announced. This is the first dedicated national training programme for Special Needs Assistants (SNAs). It will be delivered by UCD and funded by the Department of Education at no cost to the SNA.

The new online programme for SNAs will begin in January 2021 and will consist of five modules delivered over a ten-month period covering inclusion, communications and language, a range of special needs and information on caring for students with additional care needs. In total, there are 3,500 places available on the programme over the next four years.

The need for SNA training was identified by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) in its recent review of the SNA scheme.

There are currently almost 17,000 SNAs working in Irish schools dealing with the care needs of vulnerable students so that they can participate in school life as much as possible and achieve positive education outcomes. This programme aims to refresh and update the knowledge and skills of these assistants and provide an opportunity for them to interact with educators and colleagues in a learning and supported professional environment.

Modules for the programme include

  1. Inclusive Education of pupils with additional educational needs
  2. Communication and Language difficulties
  3. Autism Spectrum Disorders
  4. Primary care needs, including medical and complex needs
  5. Professional Development of Special Needs Assistants

An induction session will be held at the beginning of the programme in order to familiarise participants with the technological requirements and other aspects of the programme. Participants will have access to a comprehensive range of learning resources. Progress through the programme will be monitored on an ongoing basis and there will be an assignment to be completed at the end of each module. The first training programme starts in January 2021 with a cohort of 500 applicants. Followed by 3 further years, each September, with a capacity for 1000 SNAs.

The programme was developed by University College Dublin (UCD) in conjunction with the Department of Special Education and Inclusion and the NCSE. As it is an online programme, it can be accessed by SNAs at a time that suits them. It is open to schools to use some of the current training time allocation to facilitate participation in the programme.

Following a public procurement process, UCD School of Education in conjunction with UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems was selected to develop and deliver the programme.  The programme will begin in January 2021 with the enrolment of 500 SNAs in the first year.  On successful completion of the programme, participants will receive a certificate from UCD which may serve as a stepping-stone to further education and qualification.

The programme is open for applications since October 1st, with a closing date of November 16th, with the first cohort of students due to begin on January 18th 2021.  Application forms and information material is available on the UCD website.

Notification of this programme will issue directly to every school in the country informing them of this initiative. Further information will be published on the Department’s website and via social media. UCD will be holding webinars where potential applicants will be invited to attend to meet the team and ask questions.