Election candidate John Watson has claimed new rules governing the allocation of Special Needs Assistants could see a medical card style cull of SNA supports in Donegal schools.
The Fianna Fail candidate was commenting on a circular from the Department of Education outlining strict new rules on SNA supports, including constant reviews that could result in children losing support with little warning.
The Letterkenny businessman said this appears to be putting huge amount of red tape in the way of access to special needs supports.
“Schools will be buried in paperwork trying to ensure that children with needs get the help that they need to develop within the classroom setting.
“The allocation of a Special Needs Assistants will be subject to an annual review and time bound to 3 years subject to these annual reviews. It means that parents and schools will be forced to go through constant reviews, re-applications and appeals processes. This is an unnecessary burden on already overstretched teachers and parents.”
The circular also says that in order to get SNA support ‘the care needs outlined must be of such significance that they are beyond that which would normally be expected to be provided to a child by the child’s class teacher’.
“It is clear from this that the bar will be extremely high for a child with special needs to get any access to a SNA supports.
“Schools will also be required to put in place a Personal Pupil Plan outlining the pupil’s special care needs and showing how the SNA will be deployed to assist the pupil. The circular does not offer any real definition of what should be in a Personal Pupil Plan.
“At secondary level, it seems that it will be more or less impossible to access any SNA support. The Department says that ‘only students with chronic and serious care needs’ should need SNA support and that ‘continued and ongoing access to SNA support is generally not desirable for post-primary students’. The tone of this statement is deeply unsympathetic.”
He concluded that this is alarming for those responsible for the care of children with special needs.
“We have already seen how the application of bureaucracy and red tape to the discretionary medical card process has caused distress and led to thousands of very sick and disabled people losing their medical card without warning.
“I fear that the same underhand tactics are now being applied to children with special educational needs and will result in covert cull of SNA supports in our schools,” he added.