Being a Special Needs Assistant (SNA) is a rewarding but challenging job. It attracts hundreds of people every year in Ireland.
The role of the SNA is to assist the teacher in providing support to students with special educational needs. As an SNA, you will help children to learn in a school environment.
The Irish school education system is made up of two types of schools. The most numerous are primary schools. This is where Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) are based. There are also a smaller number of larger post-11 schools. These are known as post-primary schools or secondary schools. SNAs can work in either of these types of schools.
What Does an SNA Do
An SNA offers additional learning support to children with a disability. This can be to one or more pupils. You will do this to support children who require additional support over and above that what is provided by a teacher. Being an SNA is vital to these pupils. This is because as an SNA you would support children who would not be able to attend school without any additional help.
Special Needs Assistants have particular responsibility for:
- Preparing materials to help children learn.
- Assisting physically disabled children with writing or typing comfortably.
- Helping maintain discipline and classroom order.
- Helping teachers in the supervision of children during recreational or assembly periods.
- Assisting with out-of-school activities.
- Working to motivate, encourage and stimulate children. You will do this to help them achieve the best educational outcomes possible.
Who Employs Special Needs Assistants (SNAs)
Virtually all SNAs are employed by the schools themselves. All schools fall within the remit of the Department of Education. This Department is part of the government of Ireland. They are therefore classed as public sector workers.
A smaller number of SNAs will work in private-sector schools. These will be classed as private-sector workers.
Job Salary for Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) in Ireland
SNAs’ salaries are based on experience and seniority.
There are also a variety of sources for how much a Special Needs Assistant is paid. One source says the average SNA’s salary is €32,799 per year.
However, the Department for Education makes clear that there is a set scale of salaries. The lowest point is €25,102. This can climb to the highest point of €42,190. This highest point only kicks in after 3 years of satisfactory service at the maximum. The maximum salary is described as a Long Service Increment.
Where an SNA works part-time, their salary is calculated on a pro-rata basis for each hour worked.
In addition to this, SNAs practising in Dublin will usually earn at least 10% more than in other parts of Ireland. This is because of the much higher cost of living in Dublin.
General Salary Levels in Ireland
Some other figures are useful. These will allow you to compare an SNA’s salary in Ireland with other professions. And they will show how an SNA’s salary in Ireland is comparatively paid.
According to the Central Statistics Office, the national average salary in Ireland is €45,324. That’s a salary after tax of €34,815 a year. It is also equivalent to €2,901 a month. Or you can look at it as €670 a week.
A good salary in Ireland is said to start at €45,000 across the country. This rises to €50,000 in Dublin. This translates to €2,887 every month after tax. It is also equivalent to €3,102 monthly before tax.
Further, the current Minimum Wage in Ireland is €11.30. This must be paid to people aged 20 and over. This means the minimum untaxed income for a 40-hour week is €452. Per month this works out to just under €2000. It is also equivalent to around €23,500 per year.
How Do SNAs Get Paid
SNAs will be paid from the budget of your school. The salary level of an SNA will be decided by the Department of Education in the government of Ireland. Further, experienced SNAs will be paid more.
How Often Is an SNA Normally Paid
You can normally expect to be paid a salary every month.
Who Negotiates a Job Salary for an SNA
The basic salary levels of SNAs are set through negotiations in different ways. Most importantly, trade unions negotiate the basic overall salary level. On top of this, there will be increments and additional payments based on other factors such as experience. Another increment factor will be the size of a school. The complexity of the job will also have an impact.
What Sort of Contracts Do SNAs Have
SNAs will have permanent contracts with the school. Their ultimate employer, however, is the Department of Education. This will mean these contracts set out all the relevant terms of employment. Further, these contracts will be standard between schools.
Earning Potential of a Special Needs Assistant (SNA) in Ireland
SNAs’ pay will increase throughout your career. This is because experience and reputation will mean you can progress in your career. This could be a move to a bigger school or college. Alternatively, you may be able to achieve more educational success in a single school.
Qualifications/Courses – Special Needs Assistants (SNAs)
There are different career routes you can take to become an SNA. The minimum required qualification for an SNA is one of the following:
- A level 3 qualification on the National Framework of Qualifications.
- Alternatively, you need a minimum of three grade Ds in the Junior Certificate.
- Also, you can present an equivalent qualification.
On top of this, you are more likely to find employment as an SNA with a specific qualification in special needs. Another path might be previous experience working with children with disabilities.
General Skills Required
- Excellent problem-solving and diagnostic skills are essential. You will need to be flexible and intelligent. You will also need to treat all pupils as individuals. In addition, SNAs must be able to deal with a wide variety of educational issues. You will also need to be able to deal with a wide variety of disabilities.
- Good time management skills are essential. This is because you may be handling several pupils at the same time. They might also have a variety of complex conditions. This means being an SNA is a demanding career with different skills throughout each stage of work.
- Special Needs Education is always developing. This means you must be prepared to keep learning about new issues and approaches in education. This applies throughout your working life.
- Excellent communication skills are needed. You will be working with a wide variety of pupils. They might have very specialised communications requirements. This will include challenging pupils.
- You must be a good team player. This means having the ability to work constructively with others, including teachers. It also means bearing in mind others in your team will have a complicated job too.
- Additionally, there are a few other office-based skills needed. Such as good computer literacy to record information relating to pupils.
- A clean Garda vetting check is also required. This is because you will be working with children. This system of Garda vetting is conducted by the Garda Siochána National Vetting Bureau. It works by sending a vetting disclosure to the organisation that requested one.
Challenges of Being a Special Needs Assistant
- No two days as an SNA are the same. You will need flexibility and a pupil-centred approach. Indeed, you must always be prepared for the unexpected. This can be exciting but also challenging at times.
- You will also need to maintain a professional outlook. This means treating fellow SNAs, teachers, pupils and parents with respect. Additionally, pupils or their parents can be challenging. All of these factors mean the job of an SNA can be stressful. Additionally, external school inspections will also bring stress.
Type of Person Suited for this Work
- An extremely innovative and thoughtful person makes a good SNA.
- You will need empathy and sensitivity. You will also need a commitment to supporting disabled children.
- Tied into this you need to be a good listener. This is because it will be your responsibility to work out what problems might arise in delivering education. You will also need to be someone who can apply problem-solving skills with confidence.
- You will also need to be someone with a calm outlook. This includes the ability to deal with stress because the work can be very pressured.
- Additionally, you must keep up to date with new educational ideas. These factors mean you need to be someone willing to learn as your career progresses.
General Expected Working Hours
You can expect to work around 30 hours a week in a school. Further, you may have some evening work relating to supporting pupils.
Location of Work
As an SNA, you will be located in a school. However, you will also be expected to conduct some trips outside school from time to time.
It is possible to build a successful and well-paid career as an SNA. You will do this by building your reputation. Further, this is likely to continue throughout your career. This is because experience and understanding will mean you can be promoted within the SNA. You might also move to a larger school.
Another promotion route is to develop a specialism working with pupils with a specific disability.
You might also choose to progress your career by training to become a teacher.