Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

Other Questions - Special Educational Needs

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 762 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 170 Next Page Last Page

 6.  Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming  asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  the number of special needs assistants employed at the end of September 2011; the number employed at the end of December 2011; the number employed at the end of March 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19392/12]

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The number of posts available in this school year under the special needs assistant, SNA, scheme is capped at 10,575 under the employment control framework, [80]as set out in the programme for national recovery and signed up to under the memorandum of understanding with the troika.

In September 2011 the NCSE allocated 10,100 posts to schools while retaining 475 posts to cover late and emergency applications. This measure ensured there would be sufficient posts to support all children who required such support in line with departmental criteria. By March 2012 the NCSE had allocated 10,299 whole-time equivalent posts to schools, leaving 276 posts available for allocation up to the end of the school year.

The number of SNAs employed by schools at any given time is usually less than the number of posts allocated at that time by the NCSE. Accordingly, the number of SNAs employed by schools was 10,014 at the end of September 2011, 10,117 at the end of December 2011 and 10,240 and at the end of March 2012.

Deputy Brendan Smith: Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith I thank the Minister for his reply. It is one area where there was rapid progress during the decade. On Leaders’ Questions recently, in response to Deputy Micheál Martin, who began the whole process of allocating special needs assistants as Minister for Education and Science in 1998, the Taoiseach stated that from 2001 to 2010 the number of SNAs had tripled. That was a very good, much needed and welcome investment to assist many children.

To take the Minister’s figure, 235 posts have not yet been allocated in respect of the number for which provision had been made for this school year. Is that correct?

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Yes.

Deputy Brendan Smith: Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith The school year is coming to a close. I hope no child has been denied assistance when there was a surplus, as such, in provision. I am sure the Minister can assure us the council has ensured no child meeting the criteria and needing that assistance has been denied support.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Deputy is basically correct. We have the employment control framework figure of 10,575 and this was communicated to the NCSE. Last year, its SENOs communicated to all the schools that 10% was being retained in order to deal with late applications and emergency cases. Unfortunately, the communication was not properly or clearly understood and, in some cases, understandably — I am not blaming anyone as we are all human — this was communicated as a 10% reduction in that total number. That was not the case.

The operation of the NCSE is separate from the Department of Education and Skills. The assessment of special needs, as the Deputy knows, is a function of the SENOs and the allocation of resources and the prudent retention of a reserve to deal with late applications or emergency cases is a judgment of the NCSE. What I will be asking the NCSE in light of the Deputy’s very rational question is whether it is being over-careful in holding back 10% or being over-careful in the way in which they are assessing late applications. There is no gain from our point of view within the Department of not filling the full allocation of SNAs within the framework of employment control.

Deputy Brendan Smith: Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith I thank the Minister and agree with his sentiments. Will the cap remain the same for the 2012-13 school year as for the present school year?

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I do not have the information on that question. Obviously, given population growth at primary and secondary level and the pupil-teacher ratio as numbers increase — we are expecting an increase of 70,000 between primary and secondary over the coming years — mainstream regular teachers will automatically be applied in addition to what [81]is in place. At this point, I do not have the precise information as to whether that cap is absolute or whether there is some internal growth dynamic affecting it. I will find out for the Deputy and let him know.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace With regard to my question on SNAs, is it true that the right to appeal is gone?

  5 o’clock

Deputy Seán Crowe: Information on Sean Crowe Zoom on Sean Crowe I questioned the Minister before on this issue and will put down a parliamentary question if he does not have the information today. I was looking for a breakdown by county of where SNAs were lost. We all asked questions in regard to children who lost SNAs. Will the Minister carry out a review — that awful word again — at the end of the year? Will he give an overview of the impact the cap has had on children with special needs? This can be a barrier for those children who are trying to move from one school to another. Has this emerged as a trend in the figures and information the Minister is receiving?

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn I do not have the factual information the Deputy is seeking. It would be better to put down questions for written reply. With regard to Deputy Wallace’s question, to the best of my knowledge, the appeals process has not been abolished, although it may be under review as to how it should operate. I will come back to the Deputy on that as I do not have the information to hand.


Last Updated: 04/04/2015 08:09:23 First Page Previous Page Page of 170 Next Page Last Page