Six schools offer 60 special education needs places

By Julie Waters

 

SIX schools across Ards and North Down have agreed to provide seven additional classes for up to 60 children with Special Education Needs (SEN).

Education Minister Paul Givan has confirmed these children ‘may not have had access to suitable school places’ in time for the new school year without these schools coming forward.

Most children without a SEN statement, which sets out a child’s or young person’s specific needs, find out which primary or post-primary school they will go to in April and May.

Earlier this year, Mr Givaninister had stated that an additional 1,000 SEN places were needed for children from across the entire province for the new term in September and hundreds of schools were contacted about providing the specialist provision.

The Minister delivered the update on the increased available local SEN places following an Assembly question from his party colleague and North Down MLA Stephen Dunne.

Speaking at Stormont, Mr Dunne asked the Minister to outline the impact these additional classes would have on relieving local SEN pressures.

Said Minister Givan: “Six schools have agreed to establish new specialist provision this year in the Ards and North Down borough council area.

“That will create seven additional classes for up to 60 children with social and communication needs and learning difficulties who otherwise may not have had access to a suitable school place for September 2024.”

Minster Givan said he would ‘happily’ commend the local schools for their ‘proactive approach’ to help meet the rising demand for SEN places

“I will happily join the Member in thanking the schools in his constituency that responded positively, as well as all the other schools that expressed a willingness to provide additional capacity for this year and, indeed, for future years.

“It was a very positive response. In response to the survey that my department issued, 400 schools indicated a willingness to establish specialist provision classes.

“Officials engaged with schools that said that they could establish provision this year, and we are following up with the remainder for the new school term to ensure that provision can be put in place in line with projected need.”

Mr Dunne said that meeting the growing need for SEN school places is ‘one of the toughest challenges facing our education system in Northern Ireland’.

He said: “My constituency office is regularly contacted by parents of children with SEN who are struggling to find suitable places that will allow their children to receive the necessary support to flourish and meet their potential.

“I am pleased that following a survey of schools across Northern Ireland by the Department of Education, a number of local schools have come forward to help support additional SEN provision for pupils in need.”

“This will create seven additional classes for up to 60 children with social and communication needs and learning difficulties who otherwise may not have had access to a suitable school place for September 2024,” he said.

“I would like to commend our local schools for working constructively with the Education Authority and Department of Education to make this progress possible.”