Paraprofessional support in Irish schools: from special needs assistants to inclusion support assistants

Richard Rose, Yu Zhao*, Michael Shevlin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


Paraprofessional support to enable access to education has developed in differing directions in a range of countries. In Ireland, the role of the special needs assistant has focused on supporting the additional care needs of children with special educational needs to ensure their participation in lessons. The role of the special needs assistant (SNA) was considered crucial as Irish mainstream schools adapted to delivering more inclusive learning environments. Support provision has been recently reconceptualised and within this model special needs assistants are now designated as Inclusion Support Assistants with a very specific care role excluding any teaching activity.

This research draws on data from a longitudinal study of SEN provision with a specific focus on the role of SNAs within Irish schools. Findings indicated that the contribution of special needs assistants was highly valued by education stakeholders. It is suggested that the evolution of the SNA role in Ireland can support schools in adopting a flexible approach to create inclusive learning environments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183 - 197
Number of pages15
JournalEuropean Journal of Special Needs Education
Issue number2
Early online date15 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

This paper draws upon data collected during Project IRIS (Inclusive Research in Irish Schools) a longitudinal study of provision for children with special educational needs in the Republic of Ireland.


  • Paraprofessional support
  • inclusion
  • special educational needs
  • Ireland
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Education
  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)


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