Monday, September 26, 2011
The Life of an SNA, Part 1: The One Who Was Let Go
I have discussed the SNA (Special Needs Assistant) issue at length on a number of posts here recently. It is something I am passionate about as I personally know that the SNA scheme is effective and represents true value for money, as I demonstrate in my Dear Minister for Education post. I share some of my story in that post and I also share my thoughts on recent statements made by politicians in my Making Our Voices Heard post.
A lot of parents and teachers have shared their stories recently and we have seen some SNAs briefly on our TV screens with their charges, showing us how crucial their assistance is and the difference it makes in class.
Some of our special needs children are being treated in an especially appalling manner in that they can only attend school for short periods of time per day, such are the cuts in place in their schools..
But what about the other children, special needs and otherwise, how are they faring?
What is it really like for SNAs these days? How are the children coping? What is the work environment like?
What is it like in the mainstream classroom these days?
Two SNAs have very kindly offered to share their stories annonymously with us and I will reveal those stories here, in two parts.
Today is Part 1 of The Life of an SNA; The One Who Was Let Go:
From an SNA who lost her post.........
I've been working as an SNA in my local school for 4 years, a job I loved and enjoyed going into everyday.
On Monday 27th June 2011 that all came crashing down as myself and 4 of my colleagues were told the devastating news, by an equally devastated Principal, that our posts were gone following a SENO assessment!
Its hard to really express just how this affected me personally but the best way to explain it is that to me, it felt like a bereavement.....I was genuinely grieving. Not just for the fact I'd miss the salary, the camaraderie with colleagues and friends, the interaction with the children in the school, all of which I would, but more for the fact that I wouldn't get to continue to work with the great little guy I'd been assigned to for the past 4 years. I wouldn't get to see his continued progression, his improvement in every area and to see him off to MAINSTREAM secondary school in the knowledge that I'd been part of a team that allowed this to happen.
When I started in the role of *Conor's SNA (*not real name) .he was a challenging child with so many problems and an iron will when it came to doing something he didn't want to do. I worked on helping his progress in the following areas:
Writing..... he couldn't write his name in 1st Class.
Reading.... his reading age was substantially behind that of his classmates.
Social Skills....Inappropriate behaviours, that can be a danger to others, is not the best way to get attention and make friends.
General help... in interpreting exactly what the teacher was instructing.
Organisational skills.......its your book to put away, up to you to find right books for homework etc.
Motivating him to stay on task.
By the end of 4th class every aspect had improved. He regularly got full marks in tests and he was reading novels and enjoying them. His ability to get himself from one place to another in school had improved as had his organisational skills, which just needed a bit of pushing and sneaky double checks to ensure he had all homework books...this still has a way to go I hear!!
The absolute pride and satisfaction I got from watching him progress so well is second only to the birth of my own 2 children.
While Conor has progressed well he now only gets "Access to an SNA" for a small part of the day, and while this helps to promote independence it happened very suddenly for him. I can see how he will regress very quickly. Calling in to see the class last week I noticed how the teacher had to stop what she was doing a number of times to get Conor back on task.She had to help organise his Homework stuff , as he wasn't too sure what he needed. She has to regularly stop teaching, affecting 31 other children, or ignore him and let him drift and switch off. It broke my heart to see this! He is one of many......and he's one of the children more capable of coping.
When the SENO came in to "observe" the 5 children that the Department had received applications for....for a sum total of 10 minutes per child.....she seemed to be more interested in observing the fact that in 3 classes there were 2 SNA's. Junior classes with 4 children in each who had been granted SNA's and this appears to have been the big issue. The 5 extra children were granted "Access" but the cost? A loss of 4.5 SNA posts.....deploy....share....Oh, but the children are in different classes, in different parts of LARGE school..... Tough... that's what you're getting... Work with it.. was the attitude. None of the other 16 Special Needs children were looked at that day to see if they could cope with "Shared Access". Not part of her brief for that particular visit!
So, just like that, at the flick of a pen we're gone......all the hard work, the effort, the dedication, the relationships with the children dismissed without a care......get them off our budget and onto Social Welfare's......our Dept will look soooo much better!
I now go in to help on a voluntary basis a few mornings a week as I know its needed badly, for the children's sake. Maybe not a great idea as it could put off the appeals process. I see the atmosphere has changed....people are stressed...remaining girls feeling they aren't doing enough because they physically can't....and most importantly children are regressing, floundering.
Yes Mr Quinn, our Country is in a huge mess and we are broke and now at the mercy of IMF/EU but at what cost? Vulnerable children becoming more vulnerable and dole queues growing even more......SNA's are value for money and a whole lot more.
A sad, deflated and unemployed SNA.....
You can read Part 2 of The Life of an SNA here...... The One Who Stayed Behind.
Ps: Your comments would be much appreciated. Thank you