Re: FORSA’s recent communication to Special Needs Assistants – Letter to School Managerial Bodies primary and post primary

To: School Managerial Bodies primary and post primary


Re: FORSA’s recent communication to Special Needs Assistants


Dear Colleague in Education,

I refer to the recent communication issued by Fórsa entitled “Advice on SNAs carrying out complex care for students”. As this communication has considerable potential to mislead and to cause confusion among schools as well as anxiety to the families they serve particularly during this time of pandemic and the sensitivity of the issues around reopening schools. The purpose of this letter is to confirm and clarify certain matters referenced in the Fórsa correspondence.


SNA Duties

Contrary to the view conveyed in the recent communication, there is clarity on the role and functions of SNAs.  There has been no change in SNA duties which are outlined in various circulars previously issued to schools.  Indeed, these circulars provide the basis for the contracts of SNAS who are currently employed by our schools.


Should there be any doubt or lack of clarity in this respect, it is open to any party to raise issues through the recently established IR Forum which was established for this purpose.




The information provided by Fórsa in the recent communication includes that Fórsa supports those SNAs who refuse to carry out catheterisation whilst also providing guidance on what training and risk assessments must be in place in order for an SNA to undertake this duty, should they so choose. This suggests that catheterisation is an optional duty.


The Department has a clear and long-held position on this duty which has been set out to Fórsa previously, and which for clarity I have restated below.  As you know, this matter was raised by the Official Side at the last SNA IR Forum in December 2020 due to issues arising in particular schools and the Department position was made clear.



SNA Contract

SNAs are recruited specifically to assist schools in providing the necessary non–teaching services to pupils with primary care needs that cannot be supported by the teacher or other supports in the school. The SNA contract as set out in Department Circulars 12/2005 and 15/2005 clearly states in Appendix 1 that the duties of an SNA involve tasks of a non-teaching nature such as:


“Assistance with clothing, feeding, toileting and general hygiene and being mindful of health and safety needs of the pupil.”


This toileting duty is also restated in Section 4 of Department circular 30 of 2014 as follows:


Assistance with toileting and general hygiene: (including catheterisation)

Catheterisation is a primary care need which may warrant SNA support where self-catheterisation is not possible.

A medically qualified person is not required to perform this function in a school.


Where a pupil with significant care needs cannot independently self-toilet, the SNA is responsible for supporting the pupil in this regard until such time as he/she is able to do so.


Clarification of the Department’s position has issued to Management Bodies and Schools previously and is enclosed for your information.

As you might be aware in September 2018, the Labour Court noted the following in respect of a case relating to 23 SNAs in Scoil Mochua in respect of the duties of SNAs:

“The Court, having read the parties’ submissions and listened carefully to the submissions on the day, notes that both parties concurred that assisting children with toileting needs was part of an SNAs duties.”


Failure to comply with the direction of the Principal Teacher in this regard can be regarded as a breach of contract which could lead to the invocation of disciplinary procedures against the SNA (DE Circular 72/2011). In fact, there are disciplinary proceedings underway by one school in this regard.



It is a matter for each school to ensure that the SNA(s) is in a position to effectively meet the care needs of the pupils in their care.

Once appropriate training has been provided then the SNA should attend to the care needs of the child as directed by the school.

Where a care need has a specialist nature, e.g. catheterisation, peg feeding, suctioning a tracheostomy, training should be provided to the SNA. The school should liaise with an appropriate professional, for example, a registered nurse or HSE specialist/adviser so that an SNA is provided with appropriate guidance and training in order to meet the care needs of the pupil(s) in his/her care.  In some instances, parents may be the most appropriate trainers for SNAs, for example, in relation to the catheterisation needs of their child in the school environment.



The HSE is responsible for the provision of medical services including nursing care for children in this country and this Department has neither policy responsibility for nor does it provide funding to support the employment of nurses in schools.  Currently, there is nursing support provided to students with complex medical needs in some schools, mainly special schools but this is provided through funding from the HSE or by other service providers attached to schools.  In these schools, the nurses work seamlessly alongside school staff including teachers and SNAs.

Funding was recently provided to this Department to undertake a pilot project to supplement the existing service so as to assist children with complex medical needs who require nursing support in order to attend school.  Work is underway with the Department of Health, the HSE and the NCSE on how this could work in an effective way and progress is expected shortly. It is important to appreciate that the purpose of this initiative is to extend an existing service and not the creation of a new scheme of in-school support.

It is not envisaged that this development will impact on the role of SNAs and any outcome of this pilot is intended to enhance existing HSE nursing supports but not replace the contractual duties of SNAs which are already well known and understood


SNA Indemnity

The Fórsa communication also raises the issue of SNA indemnity while carrying out their work in a recognised school. You may be aware that school Boards of Management are required to ensure that comprehensive insurance cover is in place to safeguard the school and those employed by the school as set out in the Governance Manual for Primary Schools 2019-2023.  Recognizing that there is a number of school insurance arrangements in place, the standard insurance arrangements do provide an indemnity to school staff including SNAs provided they are carrying out their duties under the direction of school management.



Yours sincerely,



Eddie Ward

Principal Officer

Special Education


letter to management bodies – Download Letter

Limited guidance offered to children with intellectual disabilities as they prepare to leave school – TCD research finds

Limited guidance offered to children with intellectual disabilities as they prepare to leave school – TCD research finds

Research published by Trinity College Dublin today (Tuesday 23 February 2021), ‘Post-School Transitions for Students with Intellectual Disabilities’ has found that there is limited guidance for children with intellectual disabilities in Ireland as they prepare to leave school, contributing to a significant underrepresentation within the workforce and further and higher education in the State.

The research, conducted by the Trinity School of Education and the Centre for People with Intellectual Disabilities, found that there are a number of contributing factors, including the lack of a consistent approach in schools and concerns that there are not enough appropriate supports in further/higher education to support students with intellectual disabilities. Policy recommendations include the implementation of a whole-school approach to guidance provision and an expansion of post-school options from traditional health-based settings to further and higher education.

Des Aston, Co-Author of the research and National and Schools Coordinator, Trinity Centre for People with Intellectual Disabilities said:


“We hope this research will highlight the importance of a whole-school approach to inclusion. Inclusive education isn’t just about accessing an academic curriculum, albeit an integral part. We need to make sure that inclusive education encapsulates everything that a school experience should include – from the social life to guidance for adult life. Access to appropriate guidance and information, coupled with inclusive leadership and strong student support teams are some of the steps needed at school level. While further and higher education providers also have a duty to ensure equity of access and supports are made available to support seamless post-school pathways.”


Research has consistently highlighted the importance of formal career guidance and transition planning for students, as they prepare to leave post-primary education and enter further or higher education, training, employment, and adult life.


Jennifer McKenzie, Director of the National Centre for Guidance in Education said:


It is incumbent on those of us in the provision of education, training and guidance supports to carefully reflect on the recommendations of this report and consider their implications for future policy and the provision of more suitable progression options for these young people, so that they too, just like their school friends, can aspire to achieve their own life goals.


“The one key message threaded throughout this report is the genuine concern of school management, personnel and parents to support young people with Intellectual Disabilities to make suitable transitions which will allow them achieve their potential. Realistically, however, the report indicates a recognition and acknowledgement by relevant personnel that school policies and further professional development are required to ensure that school management, guidance counsellors and special education needs co-ordinators have the appropriate knowledge and competences required to work collaboratively to provide transition and progression planning and supports and for students with Intellectual Disabilities.”


The research was conducted by Mr Des Aston, Dr Joanna Banks and Professor Michael Shevlin and the findings are based on a national survey of Irish post-primary school principals and qualitative interviews with school personnel responsible for the transition planning and guidance provision for students with disabilities in their school.


Read the full report here:

(Embargo set until 23rd Feb. 2021. Please contact for the full report prior to this date.)






Sabina Eberle 

Media Relations Officer 

Trinity College Dublin 

Email: | Tel: 086 067 9315


Des Aston1

National and Schools Coordinator

Trinity Centre for People with Intellectual Disabilities

Trinity College Dublin

Email:| Tel: 087 685 8828



Dr Joanne Banks2

Assistant Professor in Inclusive Education

School of Education

Trinity College Dublin

Email:| Tel: 086 394 7985


Professor Michael Shevlin3


Trinity Centre for People with Intellectual Disabilities

Trinity College Dublin

Email:| Tel: 086 829 4852






Notes to Editors


Report Authors:

  • Mr Des Aston, National & Schools Coordinator, Dr Joanne Banks, Assistant Professor in Inclusive Education, Professor Michael Shevlin, Director Trinity Centre for People with Intellectual Disabilities.


Key Findings:

  1. Limited Career Guidance for Students with Intellectual Disabilities:
    1. Guidance and transition planning for students with ID is limited compared to their non-disabled peers.
    2. Lack of appropriate provision for students with ID in mainstream setting.
    3. Ambiguity among school staff of who is responsible for their transition planning. This responsibility varies between SENCO and Guidance Counsellors.
  2. Barriers and Enablers to Successful Transition:
    1. School staff fear there is a lack of appropriate supports in further/higher education to support students with ID.
    2. A mismatch of expectations between schools and parents around the availability of places in FE/HE or the most appropriate placement (HSE/Vocational).
    3. Other barriers include a lack of access to relevant information and awareness of post-school options among teachers, SENCOs and school Guidance Counsellors.
  3. The Importance of an Inclusive School Ethos:
    1. Attitudes of school principals towards inclusive education impact the extent to which appropriate guidance and transition planning is taking place.
    2. Schools with a whole-school approach to inclusion had greater levels of cooperation amongst staff towards coherent post-school transition plans for students with intellectual disabilities.
  4. The Impact of the Covid-19 School Closures:
    1. Concerns of remote learning and the lack of face-to-face contact impacting on students’ mental health and wellbeing.
    2. Over-emphasis on guidance and transition planning for students whose post-school pathways depended on the Leaving Certificate (LC) results.
    3. Students with intellectual disabilities, whose post-school placements were often already decided [HSE/Vocational], were overlooked during this period.



Policy Implications:


  1. Implement a Whole-school Approach to Guidance Provision
    1. The findings suggest the need for a whole-school approach to guidance provision, which will involve greater coordination between Guidance Counsellors and SENCOs.
  2. Expand Post-school Options from Traditional Health-based Settings to Further and Higher Education for Students with Intellectual Disabilities
    1. The report highlights how students with intellectual disabilities rarely make the transition to further or higher education when they leave school.
  3. Broaden the Scope of Guidance beyond Preparing Students for the Leaving Certificate and College Entry
    1. The report highlights concerns, during the Covid-19 school closures, around student outcomes, following the cancellation of the Leaving Certificate (LC) exam
  4. Ensure continuity of provision at Senior Cycle
    1. The report shows the importance of L1L2 programmes at Junior Cycle for students with intellectual disabilities but highlights the need for continuity of programme provision as students’ progress into Senior Cycle.
  5. Improve Access and Retention in Further and Higher Education
    1. The findings of this report highlight concerns expressed by teachers and parents of students with disabilities around a loss of supports if these students were to move to a new educational setting.



Letter from Microsoft – Kevin Marshall Head of Education

Dear school leaders,

We hope that you and your school community are doing well during these uncertain times. We wanted to update you on the support available from our Microsoft Education team here in Microsoft Ireland.

Use of Office 365 for teaching and learning

As you may know, Office 365 is a secure and suitable platform for teaching and learning, whether in-person, hybrid or in a remote capacity. For any school leaders, IT coordinators or school personnel who are looking for support and resources that can assist in the use of Office 365 for teachers, parents and students, please do not hesitate to contact our team at

We want to share important information with you to ensure that Microsoft Teams for Education is set up safely and securely for your organisation. Please review the documentation to ensure you have the right policies set up for your organisation. The attached document will outline the Best Practice for Microsoft Teams for both administrators and educators to help you set up safety policies and to administer meetings and channels with the recommended controls.

Microsoft Education Ireland have created a dedicated & customised page to support all parts of the education community in Ireland. The contain resources to support educators with all parts of Office 365 to enhance teaching & learning in all settings as well as supports for parents & guardians. These can be accessed at Remote learning support in Ireland – Microsoft Educator Center

To learn from fellow school leaders, you can also access our “Education Spotlight” webinars that features both a primary and post-primary school leaders and their journey to date, including the use of Office 365 for remote learning. Visit to register and receive your link for on demand viewing.

Events to support for teaching and learning
– To support teaching & learning we are engaging in several webinars that are being hosted by the ESCI, for further details please see your local ed centres.

• February 9-11th Wriggle Learning, in association with Microsoft will be hosting a practical, interactive, online event will share best practice, tools and experience with guidance from Ireland’s top educators and thought leaders. To register for this event please click here.

• Feb 24th There will be a webinar “Using Technology for Reflective Practice & Wellbeing to enhance Student Engagement” in this webinar we will look at the overall importance of social emotional learning. We will look at examples from schools showcasing how they are using technology to enable reflection and measuring student wellbeing to increase the levels of student engagement and create a positive learning environment. Registration information will be available on our Twitter channel (@MS_eduIRL)
DreamSpace ResourcesOur DreamSpace team has developed specific resources for secondary schools that are useful for all possible learning situations (in person, remote or hybrid).

• DreamSpace TV for secondary schools is our teacher led and on demand video content that has associated teacher guidelines and resources for students to use. The series brings students on a computer science learning journey with micro:bit, teaching them about AI and prepares them to enter the global micro:bit do your:bit competition. Partnering with RTÉ, we will celebrate the Irish winners and this is being heavily utilised already by TY groups. Gain access to DreamSpace TV for free at: .

• DreamSpace Teacher is a community of practice with associated schemes of work for DreamSpace activities. Teachers can read more about the resources available and register here:


We hope that by sharing this information with you, that you can relay them onto your school communities. School communities can also find out more and see all the latest updates through our Twitter channel (@MS_eduIRL). These may include future online tutorial and information sessions.

Stay safe and stay well.

Warm regards,

Kevin Marshall
Head of Education
Microsoft Ireland

Important information for keeping students safe while using Microsoft Teams for distance learning[6]


Final Guides SSPS

The Minister has approved the Guide to Supporting the Safe Provision of Schooling.

This guide will be published on the Department website.



Elizabeth Sheridan

Divisional Inspector in the Office of the Chief Inspector

Guide to Supporting the Safe Provision of Schooling_15 Jan 20_EV

Guide to Supporting the Safe Provision of Schooling_15 Jan 20_IV

NCSE – Remote Teaching and Learning – NCSE Communication to Special Schools and Schools with Special Classes


Please find attached an NCSE letter outlining recent communication to special schools and schools with special classes re: supports for remote teaching and learning.

Letter to Education Partners re Supports for Remote Teaching & Learning


Note to Members

This morning at a meeting of the NAPD regional chairpersons, representatives, and secretaries high levels of anger and frustration were expressed in relation the DES announcement yesterday. Principals and Deputy Principals are the greatest advocates for the academic and wellbeing needs of all students including the Leaving Certificate, LCA, and SEN students.

NAPD has asked the Department to allow online teaching for all students next week to give time to logistically prepare to accommodate Leaving Certificate, LCA, and SEN students returning to school as announced by the DES and await further information from NPHET on the safe return to schools.

The expectation that the school can be ready to safely accommodate this request by next Monday is unrealistic. Careful planning is required to adjust timetables to cater efficiently and safely for returning students and teachers. It must also be borne in mind that there are almost no substitute teachers available to cover for teachers who are COVID positive or are identified as close contacts. Throughout this pandemic, the Principals and Deputy Principals have kept schools open safely.

Given the unprecedented levels of COVID in many communities members expressed serious concerns that they cannot guarantee the health and safety of staff and students in their schools. Principals’ and Deputy Principals’ paramount concern is to provide a safe environment for the entire school community.

NAPD believes that online learning for all students should take place next week and that further discussions should take place with the education partners and the Department.

Clive Byrne

Commenting on measures announced by Government, Clive Byrne, Director, National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD)

Commenting on measures announced by Government, Clive Byrne, Director, National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD), said:

“While it will bring challenges which require careful consideration, school leaders note the decision by Government to allow Leaving Certificate students to attend school three days a week and to continue traditional classroom education for students with special needs.

“Throughout the pandemic, school leaders have expressed a view that the best learning environment for our students is that of the traditional classroom.

“The primary goal of all school leaders has been and remains the provision of the highest standard of education for all our students while protecting the health and wellbeing of all in the school community. The logistics of maintaining online and on-site learning in this way will be complex but with the support and understanding of the Department of Education, they can be achieved.

“Limitations remain, in particular inadequate broadband connectivity in many schools. Childcare concerns for many school staff and a lack of availability of substitute teachers for staff who have Covid-19 or are isolating as close contacts are also critical considerations.

“We are extremely mindful of the disruption experienced by all of our students. This year’s Leaving Cert students have already been impacted by the Spring 2020 lockdown and this is now added to further at a critical time in the academic year. We will continue to do everything possible to minimise the impacts of these measures.

“In addition to the current challenges, we cannot lose sight of the need to future plan. We remain hopeful that the traditional Leaving Certificate examinations can take place this summer. There remains sufficient lead-in time, coupled with the learnings of last year.

“The NAPD is anxious to meet the education partners and explore solutions with the Department and the State Examinations Commission which will meet the expressed concerns of students and staff to enable a mix of face to face teaching and online learning.”


For media queries, contact 360:


Barry Murphy / / 087 266 98978

Macdara Ó’Móráin / / 086 087 3387

NAPD Welfare Committee – have your input.

The NAPD Welfare Committee is currently investigating practical ways in which the Association might support the welfare and well-being of members. The next meeting of the committee, on 28th January 2021, will focus on this issue alone.

We are asking members to reflect and identify what additional supports might be put in place to help alleviate the current workload that is currently being experienced school leaders and to forward their thoughts and suggestions to the committee for inclusion in a draft discussion document that is being prepared for the January meeting. The email address for all communication is

Info for schools reopening

For the attention of all  schools

The HSA Work Safely Protocol requires that staff should confirm that the details in their pre-return to work form remain unchanged on school reopening following the Christmas break. The form was originally completed at the beginning of the school year. This can be communicated to the school principal verbally or by text or email. The school should keep note of these confirmations.


All staff should also be aware and take note of current advice in relation to travel. It is important that all non-essential domestic and international travel is avoided. Anyone who travels internationally must restrict their movements for 14 days on arrival into Ireland. Alternatively, travellers may take a PCR test on day 5 after arrival and should continue to restrict their movement until they receive a ‘not detected’ result.