A message from Andy Pike, Fórsa head of Education
Members will be aware that in 2019 the union submitted a claim for a new level six minimum qualification for SNAs. The department had avoided responding to this claim until late last week when, at the request of the WRC, they were compelled to respond in writing.
In its response, the department states that the current educational requirements do not need to be changed. While conceding that a review might be necessary at some point in the future, given the length of time since the qualifications were set, they do not commit to a timescale, nor does the department accept that a level six qualification is desirable, preferring instead to leave decisions to individual schools.
Fórsa had informed the department and the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) that the minimum educational qualification for SNAs has not been reviewed or changed since the statutory SNA scheme was first established. The origins of the current minimum qualification date back to the introduction of the 'Childcare Assistant' scheme within schools in 1979. Since then the role of the SNA has undergone considerable changes which have not been reflected in the minimum qualification.
Fórsa presented evidence demonstrating that the overwhelming majority of current SNAs have educational achievements well above the current requirement for three passes in the Junior Certificate. Many SNAs hold qualifications at degree level, most have achieved at least a level six qualification, and this is very much in evidence when you look at the recent student intake to the current UCD training course. More than 60% of the 500 SNA students on the current course have already achieved a minimum of a level six qualification.
Evidence was also presented to demonstrate that Ireland is out of step with international standards for the qualifications required from SNAs. Several other countries require candidates for SNA posts to have a college diploma or certificate equivalent to a level six qualification.
The department informed Fórsa that it will not be reviewing the decision not to accredit the UCD training course until the current students complete the programme. This means that 500 SNAs will complete this course without receiving an accredited UCD qualification. Meanwhile, programmes for groups such as healthcare staff, social care staff and teachers are routinely accredited.
UCD has also stated the SNA training course should be accredited at level six or level seven, yet the Department of Education refuses to give SNAs the recognition they deserve for completing the programme.
The union claim seeks to gain recognition and respect for the role of SNAs by establishing a qualification for new entrants to the job. A qualification that properly reflects the complexities of the role. The refusal of this claim by the Department of Education demonstrates lack of respect for SNAs and the essential work they carry out in our schools.
Fórsa will now commence a national campaign to highlight the value of the role of SNAs. The first stage of the campaign will carry a clear message on social media on the the need to respect SNAs. This will continue throughout the summer months, in order to raise awareness of the need to review and change the minimum SNA qualification.
The next phase of the campaign will commence at the start of the new term in September, when we will be lobbying elected representatives seeking an endorsement of the campaign, along with a series of planned public events.
The campaign will also seek support and endorsements from parents associations, boards of management, school principals, teaching unions, advocacy groups and other stakeholders.
How you can take part in this campaign
- Start posting the campaign message on your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, circulating the slides and information enclosed at the bottom of the page
- Tag friends, work colleagues and anyone you know with an interest in special education with a request for support
- You can use these campaign messages to accompany the slides, or you can create your own message
- Please use the #RespectforSNAs tag when posting
- Remember that while there are many areas where terms and conditions need to be improved, this campaign is focused on the need for new staff to have a level six qualification, which will change the status of SNAs and start the process of gaining professional recognition for the work you do
- You can also highlight the need for the UCD course to be accredited. You might not be studying on the course yourself but if we can secure accreditation it will be of benefit to all SNAs
- Remember that the claim would affect new staff. Existing staff would not be required to attain the qualification unless they wished to do so, so there are no disadvantages for existing SNAs.
We will be issuing more information on this Campaign over the next few weeks including training for branch representatives on lobbying and securing support from elected representatives and SNA campaign points of contact in each county.
Campaign materials (right click on images to save to your device)
Thank you for your ongoing commitment and support