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(UK) NI: "Scale of crisis in SPED": 'UNQUANTIFIABLE'

April 1, 2022, Irish News: (NI) Teaching union warns scale of crisis in SEN sector in NI 'unquantifiable'

THE scale of the crisis in the special educational needs sector in Northern Ireland is "unquantifiable", a teaching union has warned. Speaking ahead of the start of the Ulster Teachers’ Union (UTU) conference today in Co Down, general secretary Jacquie White said teachers have been "faced with a tsunami of pupils" with SEN and mental health issues in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic…. Ms White said one of the biggest concerns among members is the special educational needs sector, which was "in deep crisis before the pandemic". "The scale of that crisis is now unquantifiable," she said…. "The NI Children’s Commissioner’s 'Too Little Too Late' paper defined ‘systemic failures’ in the SEN sector and while the New Decade New Approach agreement has seen some review of the sector, progress has again been stifled by political chicanery. "Around 80,000 school-age children in Northern Ireland have some form of special needs, almost a quarter of all pupils. More than 18,000 of those have a statement. However, it is likely the statementing figure should be higher. For instance, last year almost 4,500 children were waiting for an autism assessment. "So in truth the scale of unmet need is currently unknown while schools are expected to struggle on themselves without the capacity to provide proper support for children with increasingly complex social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. "We need a more integrated approach. Ensuring that children with special educational needs get the education they are entitled to and so a chance to live their best lives is not solely a challenge for the education sector. Their needs are often complex and multi-faceted, learning as well as health related, and we hope the minister will take this into account when it comes to budgeting for the support these children so desperately need and deserve."… "The employing authorities have had more than enough time to draft policies addressing this issue and we would urge them to make this a priority as social media is here to stay," she said. …


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