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Did you know we are part of the first national training programme for Special Needs Assistants (SNA) in Ireland?

Thursday, 13 July, 2023

News Item SNA Graduation 1

The UCD School of Education in collaboration with the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems has been delivering the first national training programme for Special Needs Assistants in Ireland since 2021. To date, over 1300 SNAs have been conferred with the award of Diploma in Inclusive School Support

What is an SNA? 

SNA is a commonly used abbreviation for the role of Special Needs Assistant. SNAs provide crucial support to students with special needs. They are usually found in the education setting in Ireland, supporting teachers in delivering lessons to students with additional care needs at primary, post-primary and special schools. 

There are approximately 20,000 SNAs now working in the Irish education system and in recognition of the significant contribution SNAs make to the education of young people, the Department of Education and Skills (DES) and the National Council for Special Needs Education (NCSE) selected University College Dublin to develop and deliver the first formal training programme in Ireland. The 10-month online programme consists of five modules which cover areas such as the principles of inclusive education, supporting students with autism, understanding the primary care and medical needs of students with additional needs, and communication and language difficulties. 

Did you know?

The School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems support the delivery of the programme, bringing their unique expertise in the area of care for children and young adults. Professor Gerard Fealy, Former Dean and Head of School and Assoc. Professor Suja Somanadhan were co-applicants on the tender to receive funding for this unique programme. The module “Primary and Complex Care Needs” is a first of its kind in Ireland, in regards to training SNAs in detailed information, often medical in nature, of how to practically assist a child with conditions like diabetes, epilepsy and heart conditions to name a few. Clinicians, based in hospital settings provide demonstrations of procedures and help to grow the confidence of SNAs in the medical care of a child who otherwise could not attend school. 

Associate Professor Suja Somanadhan (RGN, RCN, RNT), Head of Subject for Children’s Nursing, played a significant role in the development of the module, commenting that

This module is highly valued by the students, especially the interdisciplinary approach and delivery by professionals working with children and young people in the health and community care settings. This module was co-designed and co-produced with Patient and Public Involvement and knowledge users to address the knowledge and practice gap, which was identified via a need assessment survey to enhance Special Needs Assistant’s (SNA) understanding of their roles and responsibilities in assessing, implementing and evaluating care for children with primary care and complex needs in school settings. Also, to ensure the development of independents and self-care among pupils with primary and complex care needs.”.

The comprehensive review of the Special Needs Assistant scheme, published by NCSE in 2018, formed the basis for the development of this programme which is one element of the School Inclusion Model Project. The project received significant funding support from the Department of Education and Skills of up to 2.4 million over a four-year period with the aim of providing funded training to 3,500 SNAs nationally. 

News Item SNA Graduation 2

September 2023 will see the last cohort of funded places awarded, with the aim to attract 1000 SNAs to enrol in the programme. To find out more about the Level 6 Diploma in Inclusive School Support, please visit https://www.ucd.ie/education/study/specialneedsassistants/. Or contact Maebh Comyn at (opens in a new window)sna@ucd.ie.

Contact the UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery & Health Systems

Health Sciences Centre, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4
T: +353 1 716 6488 | Location Map(opens in a new window)