860 extra Special Needs Assistants will be hired by end of year - Education Minister

IMPACT welcomed the announcement but said demands on the service continue to 'outpace the resources'

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The Education Minister says every child who needs a Special Needs Assistant (SNA) will be given one.

The pledge from Richard Bruton comes after the Cabinet approved a 7% increase in the number of SNAs for next year.

860 extra assistants will be hired, bringing the nationwide total to just under 13,000 at a gross annual cost of €425m.

Schools will be allocated the funding by the end of the year.

The move has been welcomed by trade union IMPACT, which represents around 7,000 SNAs. However, it also said an expansion of the service will still be required in the coming years.

IMPACT's Barry Cunningham said: “A 7% increase in the number of SNAs in the 2016-2017 school year would be welcome, but the demands on the service are continuing to outpace the resources available.

"We have also asked the education department to take immediate steps to address the uncertainty about the allocation of special needs assistants and, in particular, the timeliness of the publication of allocations in advance of the next school year. This is a perennial problem, which results in uncertainty for staff, schools and parents, and it needs to be addressed as a matter of priority," he added.