Dodds welcomes additional funding for Special Schools

DUP Education spokesperson Diane Dodds has welcomed an additional funding of £5 million pounds for maintenance in Special Schools but has indicated that this is only a small step forward in addressing need.

By Diane Dodds MLA

Upper Bann

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The Upper Bann MLA said, “In September I invited the Head of the Civil Service Jayne Brady and Dr Mark Browne and Linsey Farell from the Department of Education to visit Glenveagh Special School to see for themselves the conditions generally. I now understand that the Department has been able to reprofile £5 million of funding to address the pressing maintenance issues in special schools.

However this is only a small step forward. In recent weeks I have visited schools where the general state of buildings is simply not acceptable. This includes essential health and safety maintenance or in many cases repairs promised and simply not completed. This funding will only address the most pressing need.

The Department of Education must address need in this sector. Some time ago they indicated that there was a need to build more Special Schools but this has not materialised despite years in the planning. Too many of these schools are overcrowded making it very difficult for the children with emotional and behavioural difficulties. Perhaps planning a separate budget for new build of Special Schools would increase its importance.

This year has seen unprecedented problems in placing children with Statements of Educational Need. The Department and EA must address this planning failure and make sure it is not repeated. It is unthinkable that more parents would be put through the same degree of stress. I will be raising this again with Dr Browne at our October meeting. It is time that the Department told schools and parents how they intend to proceed..

Special Schools nurture and teach our most vulnerable children and young people. Staff deal with very complex issues. They are unfailing in their care and support for children and families. It is unfair that they have to do this in facilities that are far from adequate.”

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