Fine Gael and Labour have decided to maintain the cuts in the SNA sector that were initiated by Fianna Fail and the Greens.
The allocation of SNAs to primary schools around the country for the school year 2011/2012 are expected to be made on the week beginning 20 June and it is likely that many schools will have their allocations severely cut.
Fine Gael and Labour have maintained a “cap” of 10,575 on the number of SNAs irrespective of childrens’ needs. They have also maintained criteria rules which rule out automatic entitlement to an SNA for children with needs as glaringly obvious as Downs Syndrome, spina bifida, autism and ADHD.
Instead special needs children are to have their cases reviewed by a team of SENOs (Special Education Needs Organisers) who are being dubbed “SAY NOs” by many SNAs as speculation mounts that hundreds of SNAs will lose their jobs this summer.
A public meeting was held in Cork on 19 May to establish the Special Needs Assistants and Parents (SNAP) campaign whose policies aim to fight the cuts, defend SNA jobs, overturn the “cap” and reverse the tightening of the criteria.
Although the meeting was relatively small (20), SNAs from three schools were in attendance, a committee was formed, links were made with the Special Needs Parents Association and initiatives were discussed for the period immediately following the announcement of the cuts. This campaign needs to be built into a national campaign and similar meetings should be held in towns and cities around the country.
The Socialist spoke to campaign organiser Roisin O’Mahony: “People are losing their jobs and the most vulnerable children are losing their supports at school be it a special needs assistant or resource time. These children can’t speak for themselves. It is up to SNAs and parents to speak up and campaign for justice on this issue.”