Fórsa has criticised the education department for announcing details about SNA allocations for the new school term through the media.
The union’s head of education Andy Pike said SNAs were frustrated that journalists had been briefed by the department’s special advisors before consultation with staff. He said initial reports in the media last weekend revealed a dysfunctional way of administering the education system.
“The approach speaks volumes for the lack of respect demonstrated towards those providing the service, and their students, and does not bode well for the proposed rollout of the ‘Frontloading’ allocation model, which has still to be agreed,” he said.
The media reports said SNA posts in mainstream classes would be retained for the 2021-2022 school year. The department subsequently issued a statement confirming there would be no change to the SNA allocation model in mainstream classes, and that existing allocations would be rolled over into the new school year.
Andy said this measure affects roughly two-thirds of the 17,000 SNAs working in schools, and meant no increase in SNA posts for the second year in succession.
He said the remaining third of the SNA posts, in special education schools, are still not secure as the allocation of posts in these settings won’t be announced until the end of May.
“The allocations to special education schools classes are still subject to change, which means that SNAs are at risk of losing working hours or being made redundant, depending on changes to the assessed level of need within the student population.
“The number of students enrolling in schools with additional education needs is increasing. Freezing the number of posts in our mainstream classes will further stretch resources and reduce the level of support available to students studying in mainstream classes. Schools can apply for an increase in posts through a review procedure that invariably fails to meet the needs of schools and students,” he said.
An additional 990 SNA posts announced by the Government are to be allocated to new schools and new special education classes.
Andy said Fórsa believed that special education schools and classes should also have the same guarantee as given for mainstream classes that their SNA posts will not be reduced. He said the additional 990 posts should complement existing provision, and that no SNA should be at risk of cuts to working hours or redundancy.
Frontloading deferred The department’s statement also confirmed that the introduction of the frontloading model, which would introduce a three-year allocation of posts to schools, will be deferred to the commencement of the 2022-2023 school year.
The department said it had not been possible to provide the necessary information and training to support the implementation of the new model in schools during the pandemic.
The Government also announced the expansion of summer provision programmes, with increased funding, to facilitate the participation of more schools. Fórsa has welcomed this development, but said there were still several disincentives – including difficulties in finding and vetting potential staff – that could reduce the number of schools willing to organise programmes.
Andy said: “The fact that payment for this work is made in November, some four months after the work is performed, also reduces participation to those who can afford to wait that long to be paid.
“While the Department of Education is seeking a resolution to that problem this has not yet been finalised and must be put in place to ensure staff are paid within a reasonable period of time.”
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