The Department of Education has been criticised over the timing of an announcement on the allocation of special needs assistant (SNA) posts.

A department circular issued this afternoon stated there would be an additional 1,165 SNA posts in the 2022-2023 school year.

Fórsa, the trade union that represents SNAs, welcomed the extra posts but accused the department of leaving the announcement until the last possible moment before the end of the current school year.

"Once again, thousands of SNAs have been left needlessly and anxiously waiting to know if they will have a job and an income come September," said Andy Pike, Fórsa's head of education.

"This must be the very last year that SNAs are treated this way," he said.

"SNAs are the only group of public servants who must wait every year for confirmation that they will still have a job at the end of the summer," Mr Pike added.

Fórsa says it has told the Department of Education that the union will not accept the continuation of these arrangements next year.

Sinn Féin's spokesperson on education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said the delay in releasing the allocations showed a lack of respect for the country's 18,000 SNAs.

"The dithering and delay in making this announcement, leaving SNAs in the lurch in the process, points yet again to the department's treatment of SNAs as the poor relation in education," he said.

The Social Democrat's Education Spokesperson Gary Gannon said that the fact that people were still waiting to hear about allocations on the last day of May was "a real shame."

Read more:
Govt update on special education centres plan due Thursday

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said the department will continue to work with education partners and staff representatives to provide the SNA allocations to schools at the earliest possible date.

"The Department of Education is anxious to ensure that schools and stakeholders are aware of the SNA allocations for the 2022/23 school year at the earliest," the spokesperson said.

"For this reason, the Department has committed to providing schools with that clarity each year in May," they added.