(UK) NI: "Third of pupils the lowest quarter of the population academically"

Updated: Apr 20, 2019

April 15, 2019, Belfast Live: Call for more support to educate Northern Ireland’s most vulnerable children …They are some of our most vulnerable children and their issues stretch across all social classes; some live in housing estates, others go home to mansions. The Detail has spoken to senior teachers at two mainstream schools. Both provided anonymous data on a single year group to help paint a picture of the issues they – and children in other mainstream schools – are facing every day. They also outlined how they must prioritise cases for the limited educational psychology support available. One stressed: “We should be providing a much better education for those children in greatest need.”… The teachers have spoken during an ongoing financial crisis in the education sector and as a Northern Ireland Affairs Committee inquiry into funding for Northern Ireland schools continues to hear evidence at Westminster. Education Other Than at School (EOTAS) includes all forms of education taking place outside of the formal school environment. Children with the most serious social, emotional, behavioural, medical or other issues are educated in EOTAS – some have been expelled from their mainstream school. According to the Department of Education, 676 pupils were enrolled in EOTAS centres as of October 2018. That number of pupils could equate to an entire post-primary school. … The NI Audit Office reported last week that the EA overspent by £16.6m over the 2017-18 year, including a £12.7m overspend in special education needs. The EA's total budget for the year was £1.88bn. … THE POST-PRIMARY SCHOOL At this large post-primary around half of the Year 8 pupils (aged 11 or 12) are entitled to free school meals and a third have special educational needs. … Around a third of the pupils are considered to be in the lowest quarter of the population academically, many have significant self-esteem issues and a negative attitude towards education…. THE PRIMARY SCHOOL Another senior teacher spoke to us in confidence about each of the pupils in his school’s current Primary 7 group. They are aged 10 or 11-years-old with around 40% on the special needs register. … “Some parents refuse to accept there is any difficulty or a difference in their child and they can end up leaving it too late to put any support in place. One family delayed for years having their child to be assessed even though it was really clear that he was autistic. They were in denial for a long time. … “Very few of our children have support from a classroom assistant. It is a big process to go through to get that support. We always have a waiting list for education psychology in our school. If there is an emergency, the child at the top of the list has to wait.” The latest report from the Chief Inspector of Schools said that EOTAS centres are experiencing an increase in the proportion of pupils being referred through Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services, including young people with autism and multiple learning difficulties, and those questioning their gender identity. It also stated that EOTAS centres report that the most vulnerable pupils are not getting a consistent service; for example, access to the necessary specialist support. … “Principals are constantly having to weigh things up. A child who has learning difficulties but is well behaved may not be the priority for limited educational psychology time when there is another child screaming and disrupting a class. …