At present Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) are appointed on the advice of a psychologist only when a child has been assessed at stage 3 of the Three Step Model. However, the recent circular 24/03 suggests that special needs assistants should only be appropriate where a pupil has a significant medical need or where there behaviour is a danger to themselves or other people.
The Special Needs Assistant will be in school at the same time as the child so if the child is in infant class and leaves at 2 p.m. then so will the SNA. In practice most SNAs work around 12 and a half hours per week.
Special Needs Assistants are allocated to particular children and should normally move with the child from class to class and year to year. It is possible that the assistant may move onto secondary school also with the child.
There is no uniform set of tasks for a Special Needs Assistant – they are to be managed as a school resource, though primarily for the needs of the child to whom they were allocated. Special Needs Assistants are not to be allocated to teaching duties. The latest circular suggests that where special needs assistants are employed to help with toileting and feeding, that the amount of care should diminish as the pupil gets older.
If a teacher is unsure of how best to use the Special Needs Assistant he/she should speak to the psychologist attached to the school.
For discussion: Case Studies