Fórsa trade union has given a cautious welcome to the publication on Monday (27th May) of the SNA allocations for the 2019/20 school year.
Fórsa represents 8,500 special needs assistants (SNAs) nationwide. The allocations for the next school year are published annually toward the end of the current school year.
Fórsa official Seán Carabini explained: “The timely publication of the allocations is welcome, delays to this have caused problems in previous years.
“Our first comment on this year’s allocations is to sound a note of caution, because the numbers we’ve reviewed from the NCSE differ from those contained in the statement issued on Monday by the Minister for Education and Skills,” he said.
Mr Carabini said the NCSE figures published this week show 15,762.37 posts, while the minister has issued a statement claiming a total allocation of 15,950.
The figures show sizeable increases in both primary (+536.81) and post-primary (+230.25) although the increase for special schools, at +33.41 nationwide, is relatively low.
Mr Carabini added: “Overall, the figures indicate an increase of more than 800 posts compared to last year.
“However, while an increase is welcome, the full story of how the allocations are rolled out next year is not shown in the figures published this week.
“The allocations only show whole time equivalent (WTE) posts. How many of the posts are actually only part-time is not shown,” he said.
Mr Carabini said the union is examining the allocations cycle in relation to the NCSE’s SNA pilot project, which is due to be rolled out in 75 schools in Kildare, West Wicklow and parts of Dublin from September 2019.
“We are looking at how the pilot might offer more certainty beyond only a one year allocations cycle. The pilot scheme may move it to a two and three year cycle, which offer a great deal more certainty than at present,” he said.
Fórsa believes the proposal to front-load the allocation of SNA posts on a two-three year cycle offers the prospect of permanent SNA posts for the first time.
Speaking at Fórsa’s recent Education Division conference, Head of Division Andy Pike said: “We want to crystallise what appear to be genuine opportunities to improve the standing of SNAs in the schools system once the new schools inclusion model is agreed and rolled out over the next few years.”