Fianna Fáil TD for Cork North West, Michael Moynihan, says there will
still be cuts to the number of Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) in
classrooms across Cork come September despite a Government climb-down
on the number of resource teaching hours that were to be cut.
Deputy Moynihan was speaking during a Fianna Fáil Private Members
Motion (PMB) last night calling for a full reversal to cuts in
resources hours and SNA allocations.
He commented: “There is a lack of understanding by the Minister of
what has been achieved by SNAs and resource teachers in classrooms in
the past 14 or 15 years. When I first came into this House in 1997,
SNAs were community employment workers and the Department later
employed them. The benefits garnered for society and families in the
way special needs have been met in classrooms during the years have
been second to none.
“It is the greatest wish of every parent who has a child with special
needs that classroom resources and supports would be made available so
they can be fully integrated into mainstream education. Not everybody
would be able for mainstream education, but there is always a hope and
an expectation that children can be fully integrated. The benefits
children get from being in mainstream schools with the proper supports
cannot be questioned, nor can the benefits to society as a whole.”
Deputy Moynihan pointed to many initiatives such as the CABAS project
in Cork city as examples of the success of added teaching resources
for children with special needs.
“Any Government that would try to cut back on resource or SNA hours,
does not understand the benefits that have accrued from them.
“Between 2004 and 2007 I chaired the Oireachtas Education Committee
which prepared a report on SNAs and resource teaching hours. The
point that continuously came from the parents, teachers and the
education sector was that early intervention was the way forward and
that the success of early intervention could not be overestimated.
Last week’s decision by the Minister and the Government showed a lack
of appreciation of what had been achieved during the years.
“My biggest worry is that there is still a cut in regard to SNAs, yet
there is no answer on this issue from the Minister. Whatever
decisions have to be made, and we all accept difficult decisions must
be made, the most vulnerable must be protected.
“What was proposed last week was a backward step and what is still on
the cards is also a backward step. I appeal to the Minister, whatever
decisions have to be made in the area of education, to ensure every
single resource hour that can be made available is made available and
that every hour for special needs assistants remains within the