In light of the Oireachtas Education Committee discussing SNA minimum qualifications as well as other issues surrounding their treatment in the education system, the Irish Second-Level Students (ISSU) have made a submission to the Committee in support of Fórsa’s call for an expert review of the minimum qualifications; currently only 3 Ds in the Junior Certificate, which hasn’t been changed since 1979.
In the committee hearing, the categorisation of SNA support as a “scheme” was raised and the ISSU submission regards this title as concerning, as it “does not reflect the importance of SNAs to students and how they should be treated”. The submission goes on to note that the needs of students with Special Educational Needs are “more diverse than when the minimum qualifications were first set; the role of an SNA is far more complex now”. The submission affirms that “to students with Special Educational Needs and their parents, SNAs are as important as any teacher, helping them navigate school life where they would otherwise struggle for a variety of reasons as a consistent support during their time in school”.
Speaking on the matter, ISSU Rúnaí Eoin Connolly, who chairs the Union’s Disability Working Group said “I was diagnosed with Autism and ADHD in Senior infants, for the past 12 years I have had the support of SNAs in school and I would not be where I am today without them. The issue of minimum qualifications for SNAs is far more complex than just the qualifications, it leads to SNAs not being treated with the respect they deserve; the overwhelming majority of them hold much higher qualifications. Offering our support is the least we can do for all that SNAs have done and continue to do for students”.
The ISSU believes that the Department of Education must agree to an expert review of the minimum qualifications and the role of an SNA in order to take a crucial first step to improving our treatment of SNAs in our Education System and ensuring they can provide the best care to the students they look after.