The education requirements to become a special needs assistant (SNA) should be revised to reflect the fact that the skills and experience required in the role have increased in recent years, according to Fórsa. The union has submitted a claim to the education department, seeking revised educational requirements for all new SNA posts.
Entry requirements for SNAs haven’t been revised since 1979, when the assistant childcare scheme was introduced.
Fórsa’s Head of Education Andy Pike said the skills and experience of SNAs had increased substantially since then. “The union wants to professionalise the grade to reflect this. Examining and changing the educational requirements for new SNAs is a necessary part of that. It would raise the status of the SNA in our schools and enable progress to be made in number of other areas,” he said.
The union’s claim seeks a relevant QQI level six qualification (advanced or higher certificate level), or equivalent experience as essential criteria for new SNAs.
The union has said the current level of qualification is outdated and doesn’t reflect the competencies required. But it acknowledges that it will take time to progress the claim as it will require funding for courses and consensus with school employers on the appropriate level of qualification.
“While there’s consensus that the SNA role should be professionalised, the parties are likely to be far apart on how to achieve that objective,” said Andy.
The union’s claim is not designed to affect existing staff.