Mrs Dodds said,
“Education is facing unprecedented cuts. This is a direct result of underfunding which will need to be addressed by Treasury. Whilst this is evident in cuts to specific programmes like “holiday hunger payments” it’s greatest manifestation is in the ongoing crisis in Special Educational Needs.
This briefing however confirmed for me that there has been a lack of preparation and planning within the Education Authority. There must be transformational change. These are the most vulnerable children in our system yet they are consistently left year after year fighting tooth and nail to know the details of their next school, assistance provision and transport.
Whilst other children have been allocated places within the mainstream nursery and school system these special needs children are left languishing until a few weeks before the new school term every year.
Figures given out at this briefing show hundreds of children with a Statement of Need still don’t know where their school place will be next year.
It is welcome to hear that parents will be contacted this week with news of their child’s placement but it is already too late to allow these young children time and space to get to know their new surroundings.
The Education Authority has a duty under Section 75 to “to address inequalities”. The treatment of our most vulnerable children is a matter of equality of treatment and provision. This will involve reform in the long term and a sufficient budget to provide for the needs of these children and young people.
The immediate priority is to ensure that our children with Special Education Needs have an appropriate school place in appropriate accommodation and with teachers who are trained and supported to meet their needs.”