Lola Toner with her 5th class school friends and Miriam Hurley, Principal, Dalkey School Project National School, Richard Boyd Barrett,T.D, Councillor Ossian Smyth and Rachael Prendergast Spollen. Photo: Justin Farrelly.

There is a call for a Special Needs Assistant (SNA) in every classroom, after cuts at a Dalkey school caused huge concern among local parents.

Two SNAs at The Dalkey School Project National School (DSPNS) were made redundant in August, and the school say that parents are now fearful of further cuts.

DSPNS has 234 children in the school and six SNAs. Nine children in the school have been granted official access to SNAs, and three children were denied this year, despite “meeting the criteria,” said the school.

According to the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), there is still a shortage of special education teachers and SNAs available in primary schools, despite a new Department of Education report showing a significant increase in their numbers.

An INTO spokesperson told Dublin Gazette: “There are insufficient numbers of special education teachers and SNAs available in primary schools.

“Our members routinely share their difficulties in accessing such resources, alongside clinical therapy services such as speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, behavioural therapists and other counselling services.

“Supports for students with mental health difficulties are practically non-existent and NEPS is under-resourced.

“There is currently a small-scale demonstration project in operation regarding the provision of school-based therapy services but it’s imperative this is rolled out on a national basis.”

On October 25, DSPNS officially launched their ‘Meet the kids behind the cuts’ campaign. They are calling on the Department of Education and Skills to provide an SNA in every classroom, and a better support system for children with additional needs.

Mum Rachel and her son Hunter who is in 6th class

Local mum Rachael’s son, Hunter is in 6th class in DSPNS. Hunter was diagnosed with Autism spectrum disorder and she said the school is “overstretched” to deal with Hunter’s needs.  

She told Dublin Gazette: “Hunter is in 6th class, and needs a full review, or reassessment, in order for his secondary school to have the right supports ready for him.

“…the National Education Psychological Service psychologist – who would look at his academic ability and advise what he needs in 1st year – cannot get through all the children on the waiting list, and my understanding is she is currently on maternity leave, without being replaced.

“We rely on the kindness of the fantastic staff in Dalkey School Project National School to manage what resources they have to help Hunter. They have been incredible. But they are completely overstretched.

“… our Government does not value our children enough to properly fund an education system for all of our children. They have the right to a better system.”

Hunter, told us what his Special Needs Assistant, Sandra, means to him.

“Sandra helps us out in class and in yard. She helps us in any way we need help with.

“Sometimes I get upset in class or in yard. Sandra helps me calm down by telling me everything is ok and helping me use my skills, and we chat about what the problem is.

“Sometimes we chat about how the day is going, and what everyone’s plans are. I like talking about plans. Sandra is a great SNA and she is very kind and nice.”

Karen and her son Harry

Another local mum Karen’s son, Harry is the only child in Ireland with Lamb Shaffer syndrome. She is unable to send her son to the Dalkey school, which his sister attends, due to the cuts.

“The Junior Infants teacher was going to need a lot of support and assistance to accommodate Harry’s needs, as well as the needs of the other 29 five years olds in the room.

“For this reason, we made the gut-wrenching decision not to go down the mainstream route.

“I believe no mainstream school could actually provide the support required for Harry with such limited resources.

“The situation is dire. The most vulnerable of our kids, in extreme need of support, unable to self-advocate, with nowhere to go.”

To follow the campaign, see twitter.com/kidsbehindthec1 and facebook.com/kidsbehindthecuts or email kidsbehindthecuts@gmail.com