When the Special Needs Assistant scheme was first introduced, there was a good deal of flexibility in what an SNA could do with a child. The recession came and arbitrary decisions were made to constrain what an SNA could and couldn’t do for the purposes of saving money rather than actually helping children with additional needs. These days SNAs live in fear of being accused by a SENO of doing any work unrelated to care needs.
We need to fix the SNA scheme. It is bogged down in bureaucracy and insecurity.
My first proposal is to remove the constraints of the role of the SNA and rename the job to Classroom Assistant. This frees up the role to attend to whatever needs are in the classroom.
I suggest that we have a baseline number of assistants for every school. For every two classrooms, there should be one classroom assistant.
Next, if the school identifies that they require more than this, they use the NEPS service to ascertain whether an extra assistant is required. This will be in cases where full time care is needed for a child.
The advantage of this system is that we lose the need for diagnosing children simply to get resources because there is a baseline of help in the school.
While this scheme may be expensive, there are ways to figure this out. Perhaps the Classroom Assistant becomes a new position with a new payscale and any current SNAs remain where the SNA system is phased out. I think this is where the system may succeed or fail.