On 20th August 2019 we sent out a survey (via Facebook & Twitter) to ask SNAs in Ireland how prepared they felt for the coming school year, and what challenges they felt lay ahead of them. The survey also asked about how much CPD training SNAs do, and if they felt it was appropriate to their roles.
Sample size: 219 respondents, which equates to 1.37% of the 15,950 SNAs expected to be in place at the start of the school year, 2019-2020.
Most members who responded were over 6 years in their role.
26.1% of the respondents were over 16 years.
We also asked if the SNAs knew the pupils that they were going to be supporting. The largest number of answers were those who were supporting the same pupil as previous year(s).
The next largest cohort of responses were from those who had not been told of the pupils (or their challenges) which they would need to support in the coming year.
This question was one of the core questions we asked – do you attend CPD training? (CPD stands for Continued Professional Development, and is considered any additional training someone undertakes to help them perform better in their role).
The majority of respondents attend CPD, which is great, however we wanted to quantify one of the anecdotal items of information which SNAs have told us in the past – namely, who pays for it?
As expected based on conversations with SNAs, a large majority of them pay for the courses themselves.
Of the remainder, they are paid by their schools (either directly with 21.5%, or indirectly 16.2%). Interestingly – of the 2 options for reimbursement, only 1 respondent cited that they always got paid back, the rest cited ‘sometimes got it paid back’.
Which, in turn, then brought us to the flip side- namely, of those who don’t attend CPD training.
Circling back to the question of How prepared the SNAs felt to support their pupils in the coming year, we cross checked it with those who cited that they do, or do not regularly attend CPD training.
The expectation was that those SNAs who attend more regular training would be better prepared to help those pupils they support.
Of those who said they WERE prepared for the coming year…
– 59% of them said they regularly attend CPD training (regardless of how it is paid for).
– 41% of them didn’t attend CPD regularly
Of those who said they WERE NOT prepared for the coming year…
– 39% of them attended CPD training regularly
– 61% of them did not.
Note on the above: 4% of respondents who said ‘No courses exist to address specific pupil challenge’, all these respondents who cited this reason had pupils with significant co-morbidity.
Of the 54% who DO regular CPD training, 76% of those respondents ALSO had pupils with significant co-morbidity. This indicates a lack of awareness of what training is available, or where to start. (This also was outlined in individual responses from some of the answers)
Lastly, we wanted a quick summary of what the biggest challenges the SNA’s felt they faced in the year to come were. This was a FREE TEXT question, so we tried our best to summarise the responses to main categories to allow some form of analysis.
The largest cohort of concern was the lack of training on the pupil’s challenges. The range of responses varied from general (as in the pupil had ASD and they didn’t know what to do, to a situation where the pupil had significant medical procedures during the summer and there are new additional challenges).
Workload was cited where the work and situations given were part of a SNA’s role, but overburdened. Where there was outside items, we listed it as ‘Given Inappropriate duties’.
Lack of Support from the school on SNA role usually referred to the Principal, or Boards of Management only – not teachers or other SNAs. Where this was specifically mentioned, we put them in the ‘No support from teachers on Special Needs pupils (5%)’ category. – A lot of the responses here seem to stem from the teachers themselves in mainstream classes being overwhelmed – but again this is implied in the answers.
Routine Challenges was the category allocated when the respondent cited items which would be considered day-day, or expected in any job, e.g. Nervous about starting a new job etc.
There are a number of challenges facing SNAs going into the school year, however access to varied, PAID CPD appears to be a key way to address.
Anecdotally, from individual responses, schools don’t seem to want to directly pay for CPD training for SNAs, and SNAs felt excluded from general teaching CPD. The cost of sending individual SNAs to training courses can be expensive, and takes away pupil time – however so does sending teaching staff.
Due to the impact that SNAs have on the day to day lives of the pupils they support, providing access to training and CPD to them, where there is the real will from the majority of SNAs to learn – is paramount
Finally, we want to say a big ‘THANK YOU’ to all the SNAs who completed the survey and to those who shared it with their colleagues on social media.
The children of all abilities that you support daily throughout the country have a much better chance of fulfilling their potential when they have a good SNA working with them who has their back.
Data compiled and analysed by firstname.lastname@example.org