Fórsa is in discussions with the Department of Education and Skills on government-proposed changes in the way special needs assistants are allocated to schools. Once the talks have concluded, the union plans to ballot SNAs to see if they support the new allocation model.
The proposed ‘frontloading’ model would introduce a three-year allocation of posts to schools. This would replace the current practice of allocating supports through an annual assessment by a special educational needs organiser (SENO).
The union understands that the proposal would only apply to mainstream schools, with no change to the current arrangements in special schools.
Crucially, the union has sought and received assurances that there will be no change in the SNA role. Now the union wants to dig into the details of the proposals to make sure that the relationship between SNAs and their students is not undermined.
Fórsa’s head of education Andy Pike said the new model would improve SNAs’ job security. But he said there was also a risk that the direct link between SNAs and their specific student might be severed.
“The new model increases the length of secure employment from one to three years, which is a welcome change given the risk of redundancy faced by SNAs. But this improved job security comes with a downside in that the proposal names SNAs as an ‘all school resource,’ with school principals responsible for allocating work to SNAs on the basis of the needs of students. This system would break the valued link between the SNA and the SEN student,” he said.
Maintaining the link between the SNAs and their students has also been prioritised in Fórsa’s pre-election campaigning in the education sector. The union has urged members to raise the issue with canvassers and election candidates.
An information sheet is available with guidelines for SNA members to raise the issue with canvassers and candidates during the election, and can be accessed here.