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(UK) NI: Teachers say support not match "additional numbers of highly complex needs pupils"

June 12, 2024, Belfast Telegraph: Survey of teachers lays bare challenges facing special education sector in Northern Ireland

Cuts jeopardising access to support for vulnerable students, says union

A new survey has laid bare the challenges for the special education sector in Northern Ireland with virtually every respondent saying the number of children with complex needs has risen in their school.

While 99.1% of responses to the NASUWT survey said they have seen the number of children in classes rise, 95.5% said support on offer has not matched the a

Launched at a special event at Stormont on Tuesday, the survey among 224 teachers also found just under 80% said they have suffered violence and physical abuse and more than half of them said that was happening at least once a week (53.1%).

As a result of the lack of support, the survey found teachers said that had a knock-on effect of depriving schools of other facilities, and 88.4% said space in their school originally designed for other usage has since been repurposed as teaching space.

“Our survey found that there has been a reduction in access to specialised support, extracurricular activities and staffing. Class sizes have increased as has the burden on families,” said Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT General Secretary.

“This report demonstrates that the cuts to special school provision in Northern Ireland are having wide ranging negative impacts on students, families and staff. This jeopardises access to specialised education and care for students with complex needs. . . . 

The report also looked at the level of abuse staff in special school contend with. Among the findings, 82.1% of members reported they have been verbally abused in the workplace.

Almost half (42.9%) said they have been the victim of verbal abuse at least once a week and more than half (51.1%) said the abuse received was never officially recorded.

Pupils account for 79.8% of the abuse received by teachers and among the responses 15.5% said it was from colleagues and 13.6% from parents. . . . 

NASUWT Policy Casework Official Maxine Murphy-Higgins added: “The funding crisis in special education has led to reduced staffing levels, increased workload and a more stressful work environment for teachers and support staff. This pressure is felt even more when the behaviour of pupils is a factor in the classroom. . . .

In April Education Minister Paul Givan announced new funding for the special school sector.

He said the new SEN Capital Programme will deliver up to eight entirely new special schools over the next 10 years; new builds for a number of existing special schools; an extension and refurbishment programme for special schools; accommodation for specialist classes in mainstream schools as well as additional maintenance and equipment funding.

The SEN capital programme will require approximately half a billion pounds of capital investment over the next decade. . . .


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