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(UK) NI: "Majority of special schools...are 'full beyond capacity'; more need to be built"

July 2, 2020, BBC: Special school principals call for more to be built in Northern Ireland The majority of special schools in Northern Ireland are "full beyond capacity" and more need to be built. That is according to a group representing special school principals. In a letter to the Education Authority (EA), the heads said that special schools were "always dealt with as an afterthought". In response, EA chief executive Sara Long said the schools had faced "significant challenges and issues". BBC News NI had previously revealed that almost 300 children with a statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN) had no school place for September. More than 150 were seeking places in special schools. Education Minister Peter Weir subsequently called the situation unacceptable. The chair of Stormont's education committee, Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle, also revealed that about 600 children in Northern Ireland were waiting longer than the statutory limit of six months for a statement of SEN. On Wednesday, Mr Weir told Stormont's education committee that 206 of the unplaced children still remained without a school place. The Special Schools' Strategic Leadership Group represents principals in Northern Ireland's 39 special schools. In their letter to the EA, seen by BBC News NI, they said that for many years they "have been saying that there is a need for additional special schools to be built". "This has now proven to be true when we see the number of pupils requiring special school placements, who are currently unable to be placed," it continued. "The majority of our schools are full beyond capacity. "Further long-term planning needs to take place and short-term solutions are proving extremely difficult." The letter, from the chair of the group Paula Jordan, also said there was a "lack of understanding" of the work done by special schools. 'Should have been dealt with before'…


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