New National Training Programme for Special Needs Assistants Launched

By Gemma Creagh - Last update


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The Department of Education and Skills  today announced the launch of a new National Training Programme for Special Needs Assistants. This is the first dedicated national training programme for Special Needs Assistants (SNAs). It will be delivered by UCD and funded by the Department of Education at no cost to the SNA.

The new online programme for SNAs will begin in January 2021 and will consist of five modules delivered over a ten-month period covering inclusion, communications and language, a range of special needs and information on caring for students with additional care needs. In total, there are 3,500 places available on the programme over the next four years.

The need for SNA training was identified by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) in its recent review of the SNA scheme.

Speaking today, Minister for Special Education and Inclusion, Josepha Madigan TD said:

“As the first Minister for Special Education and Inclusion, I am delighted to invite SNAs to enroll in the first national training programme for SNAs which is to commence shortly. Nearly 17,000 SNAs work in our schools dealing with the care needs of the most vulnerable students so they can participate in school life as much as possible and achieve the best possible education outcomes. This programme will help refresh and update their knowledge and skills and provide an opportunity for them to interact with educators and colleagues in a learning and supported professional environment.

“Providing support and training for SNAs is an important part of my Action Priorities for Special Education and I hope to see further developments in this area over the coming years. The programme is high-quality and was developed by University College Dublin (UCD) in conjunction with my Department and the NCSE. As it is an online programme, it can be accessed by SNAs at a time that suits them.

“The programme is open to all SNAs working in primary, post-primary and special schools at no cost to the SNA. I hope that each school will encourage their SNAs to enroll. It is open to schools to use some of the current training time allocation to facilitate participation in the programme.”

Following a public procurement process, UCD School of Education in conjunction with UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems was selected to develop and deliver the programme. The programme will begin in January 2021 with the enrolment of 500 SNAs in the first year.

The Minister concluded,

“In some cases, this may be the first opportunity many SNAs have had to engage in formal learning in relation to their work in schools. On successful completion of the programme, participants will receive a certificate from UCD which may serve as a stepping-stone to further education and qualification. Ongoing training and professional development for SNAs will continue to be a key objective of my Department. I look forward to meeting the first graduates from the programme in due course.”

Associate Professor William Kinsella, Head of UCD School of Education said:

“We, at UCD School of Education, are very pleased to be involved in this initiative with the Department of Education and Skills and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) in delivering what we consider to be a very important programme, namely a national training programme for Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) in Irish schools. This has been an identified need within the Education system over many years. UCD School of Education is collaborating with UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems in delivering a programme of the highest standard that will enhance the skills of SNAs in supporting the most vulnerable students within the education system, thus enhancing the inclusiveness of our schools.”

The programme will be open for applications from October 1st, with a closing date of November 16th, with the first cohort of students due to begin on January 18th 2021. Application forms and information material is available on the UCD website.

Notification of this programme will issue directly to every school in the country over the coming days informing them of this important initiative. Further information will be published on the Department’s website and via social media. UCD will be holding webinars where potential applicants will be invited to attend to meet the team and ask questions.


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Gemma Creagh

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