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(UK) NI: New training for adults working with disabled

Sept 7, 2022, NI Irish News: New qualification in special education needs and disabilities at Northern Regional College

A NEW qualification in special education needs and disabilities has been launched.

The first and only higher education qualification of its kind currently available in the north, it is being offered at Northern Regional College.

The one-year part-time course, 'Supporting Children and Adults with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities', is suitable for anyone working with adults or children with learning difficulties.

Prior to the introduction of the course, it was not possible to achieve a higher education qualification in SEN anywhere in Ireland.

Written by Fiona Forrest, a lecturer at Northern Regional College, she said she drew on her own experiences and "something very close to her heart".

"My three-year-old son Ted has autism which is why I’m such a passionate advocate for autism and special needs," she said.

"My background is in SEN and I previously worked in a special school.

"Once we identified a skills gap in the market on the island of Ireland, we decided to bridge it by creating a qualification specifically tailored to Northern Ireland."

The course is aimed at providing essential background knowledge on special education needs and disability issues.

Ms Forrest said it was "quite a task" to create the Level 4 module from scratch, but she was happy to take on the challenge.

"We canvassed opinion on the course before it was approved and we were astounded by the response," she said.

"We received over 80 expressions of interest, which is indicative of how prevalent the interest in special needs is."

A total of 40 places will be available for the course at the Ballymena and Newtownabbey campuses. The course will be delivered through a mixture of online learning and face-to-face teaching, with classes due to begin on September 19.

Ms Forrest said she was looking forward to seeing the very first cohort of students come onboard.

"Once we realised we could address this higher education gap in special needs training, the college was very quick to fix it," she said.

Fiona Forrest, pictured with her son Ted (3), who has developed a new Level 4 qualification for people working with children and adults with special education needs and disabilities


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