Extra SNAs for Westmeath schools from September

Fourteen additional special needs assistants will be hired in Westmeath schools come this September.

There will then be 260 SNAs employed locally in the county’s schools, with 166 in primary schools, 47 in post primary and 67 allocated to special schools.

Longford-Westmeath Fine Gael deputy, Peter Burke, has welcomed the news: “One of the key aims of this government is to ensure that children with special educational needs can be supported to fully participate in school life and fulfill their individual potentials," he said.

Mr Burke explained the central role SNAs play in our education system and how beneficial an increase in their numbers will be for the schools in Westmeath.

"SNAs do fantastic work with the students and also give parents peace of mind when they send their children to school. Today’s announcement will ensure every child who needs SNA support in Westmeath will receive it, and will allow many students to access schools where otherwise they may not be able to without extra help," said Deputy Burke.

"I receive a lot of correspondence and visits to my clinic during the summer months from parents who are anxious that their child would be allocated an SNA, thus I welcome this increase. This increased investment reflects the priority which the Government has put on helping children with special educational needs to fulfill their potential."

Last year, Deputy Burke's Fine Gael colleague, Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, said funding for SNA posts would be dealt with as part of the normal estimates process, and that schools would be informed of their allocation for the beginning of the next school year before the end of May, 2018.

“It is expected that a further allocation will be announced during the first term of the new school year.” Minister Bruton said. “More children with Special Educational Needs are participating than ever before and we are investing more than ever before to support this."

The department plans to invest €1.75 billion in special education in the region this year, a 39 per cent increase in funds since 2011.

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