The shifting role of the special needs assistant in Ireland: a time for change?

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The education of pupils with special educational needs in Ireland has generallybeen influenced by national and international inclusion policy and legislation sothat the majority of these children now take their place alongside peers in mainstreamclassrooms. In Ireland, a support network comprising the teacher andadditional classroom assistance now characterises much inclusive school provision.Such support is often provided via learning support teachers, resourceteachers and special needs assistants (SNAs), the latter group being the focus ofthis article. Whilst the professional credentials of this post have evolved in otherjurisdictions, the position of the SNA in Ireland has remained largelyunchanged, with a job specification that continues to emphasise its caring, nonteachingnature. This article will consider the juxtaposition of the statutory functionsof SNAs with their reported role(s) in Irish classrooms. Using quantitativeand qualitative data, it will explore the professional profile of the SNA, identifycurrent perceptions on the nature of this post and consider its collaborativepotential within an inclusive education system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)533-544
JournalEuropean Journal of Special Needs Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2012


  • special needs assistant
  • special education
  • classroom assistance
  • role
  • duties
  • inclusion


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