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(UK) NI: 1,000 special ed places needed by fall; "special schools not equipped"

June 12, 2024, Belfast Telegraph:  Special needs children deserve better than constant crisis 


As we approach the end of another school year, many parents will be asking themselves questions about the schools their children will attend in September.

For most families, the choice will be a simple one. For children with special educational needs, however, the choice, or lack thereof, means changing schools is a far from smooth process.

A survey of members of the NASUWT, one of the country’s biggest teaching unions, has shed new light on the state of the special education system in Northern Ireland.

The overwhelmingly negative responses will not be surprising to anyone who works in the sector, or who has a child attending one of the schools.

Teachers, principals and education experts have been warning about a growing problem for a number of years.

While the Department of Education and the Education Authority shy away from using the word ‘crisis’, that is exactly what pupils, families and school staff are facing.

Special education schools are best placed to provide the education that children with some of the most complex needs are entitled to.

But places are so limited that every summer can become a battleground.

Education Minister Paul Givan has admitted an extra 1,000 classroom places will have to be found ahead of the beginning of the school year. . . .

However, it will take at least a decade for the promised eight new special schools to come into operation.

Finding the estimated half a billion pounds needed to build the schools is another pressing concern.

In the shorter term, staffing shortages are a major problem. Class sizes are rising and, as a result, teachers are at greater risk of both verbal and physical assault. . . .

Better things may be around the corner, but that corner is a long way down the road.

As things currently stand, our special schools are not equipped, in terms of staffing and facilities, to cope with the number of special educational needs students.  . . .


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