Special needs assistants: Campaign grows to fight cruel cuts

On Wednesday 13 July, parents, teachers, special needs assistants, and pupils, will gather outside the Dail in a Day of Protest to demand a reversal of the devastating cutbacks that the government is standing over in primary education, particularly in relation to services for children with additional needs.

The protest action is coinciding with a discussion in the Dail around a motion initiated by TDs in the United Left Alliance and the independent TDs in the Technical Group demanding an end to this vicious attack on one of the most vulnerable sections of society.

The details of the events on Wednesday July 13th are:
3pm – protest at Dail, Kildare St, Dublin, to coincide with Dail motion on special needs cutbacks.
4pm – meeting  to establish a national campaign committee, Buswells Hotel, Kildare Street, Dublin.


It is clear that Minister Quinn thought he could cynically cut across any opposition on this issue, by delaying the announcement of SNA resource cuts until the last week of the school term. How wrong he was!

Across all areas, groups are organising to demand justice on this issue.Important meetings have been held in every corner of the country under many different banners. It is absolutely crucial that these groups come together in united action to force a u-turn.

The 13 July can be an important date for this issue. On the one hand it is an opportunity to step up the pressure. There was already a determined protest of parents from schools in Wexford and Lucan outside the Dail in late June, and it is hoped that 13 July can serve to bring groups together for a major offensive on the issue in the autumn.

These cuts will have a seriously detrimental effect on the lives of children with special educational needs, their teachers, families, classmates and indeed society as a whole. Not to mind the SNAs who will lose their jobs.

The previous Government decided in December 2010 to cap the number of whole time equivalent posts at 10,575.  At present there are 10,802 posts which is 227 over the cap to be reached by the end of 2011. While the Department is committed to meeting the cap figure of 10,575, the government is trying to create an illusion that the needs of all children will be met. This is patently untrue.

Already parents and teachers have been told of resources being axed. The role of the SNA has evolved to incorporate an educational remit, which was not previously envisaged. There is currently no alternative that would deliver the need for SNAs to deliver pedagogical support to children with special educational needs. Not only must the cap be lifted, but the numbers increased to take account of population growth.

Similarly the cuts in resource teaching hours and support for Travellers and children for whom English is not their first language must be reversed, along with the cuts in rural transport.

All of these issues will be debated in the Dail. It is a scandal that while children’s futures are being traded in this way, the government plans to repay hundreds of millions in unsecured bonds at Anglo Irish Bank later in the year. This is not good enough.

It is hoped that a national campaign group can come together, to initially organise a major protest outside the Dail when school resumes, on Wednesday 14 September. Let the government take note – parents, teachers and SNAs will not rest until this injustice is reversed.