HEARTBREAK AS SNA HOURS CUT AT ARAGLIN N.S.
This time of the year is normally a very exciting and busy period for parents and their children as they prepare to return to school, writes Brian Moore. Books and uniforms need to be sorted out and the prospect of a new year with new experiences for the children about to begin.
However, for one family in Araglin the start of this particular school term is full of worry and fear for the year ahead. Zoe Byron O’Connor is 7 years old and is about to start 1st class at local school. Unfortunately, Zoes future at the school is anything but certain.
“Zoe has Down Syndrome and has been making fantastic progress at school over the last few years but now this is all about to change,” her mother, Annabel told The Avondhu.
Zoe has a special needs assistant (SNA) when she is in class but, now, the school has decided to reduce the SNA’s time with Zoe to one hour a day. “We were aware that the SNA’s hours would be reduced but it was our understanding that this would be done gradually as Zoe progressed. To reduce the hours to just one per day would leave her at a serious disadvantage.
“And, we have been told that the reduction in hours is to begin at the start of the new school year, this coming Monday, August 30,” Annabel said.
SHOCK AT DRASTIC CUT
The SNA, Miriam O’Donoghue was shocked when she heard that Zoe’s hours were to be cut so drastically.
“I was informed in the playground by the Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO), Maria Moriarty on June 11 that Zoe’s hours were to be cut from 25 hours to 5 hours a week. This would mean that I would be with Zoe for one hour a day from 12.15pm to 1.15pm, during lunchtime to take her to the toilet and to supervise Zoe in the playground,” Miriam O’Donoghue told The Avondhu.
Improved confidence Zoe’s SNA went on to describe just how much the Araglin girl has progressed over the last two years.
“Zoe’s confidence has improved dramatically and she is interacting with the other children and has made many friends,” Miriam O’Donoghue said.
“We have spoken to the school principal and to the board of management at the school but with no results. Zoe’s clinical psychologist agrees that without SNA support she will regress,” Annabel said.
Local Fine Gael councillor, Pa O’Driscoll is surprised at the sudden reduction in SNA hours at Araglin NS.
“Speaking as a teacher, this is totally incomprehensible. I know the difference an SNA can make and, now after making so much progress, Zoe will be landed into a classroom of 29 children in three different grades and expected to get along with just one hour a day with an SNA. This is a disgrace and I am surprised that the board of management have not acted to ensure that the SNA’s hours are not reduced,” Cllr O’Driscoll said.
“The parents association are behind Zoe 100 percent we must retain the SNA at Araglin National School. The SNA will ensure that she gets the best chance for her future and that’s all we ask for, is that our daughter gets a chance,” Zoe’s mother, Annabel concluded.
Attempts by The Avondhu to contact a spokesperson for the board of management at Araglin National School proved unsuccessful as this issue went to press.
Thursday 26th August 7:26pm