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Parent’s angst as replacement summer scheme for Armagh special school cut to just two days

Lisanally Special School

The parent of a child who attends Lisanally Special School in Armagh has spoken of her angst after being informed that a re-arranged summer scheme can no longer accommodate children for more than two days.

Due to ongoing building work at the site on Lisanally Lane in the city, the school was forced into cancelling the scheme this year.

However, following outcry from parents and political representatives, the Education Authority confirmed it was to explore alternative options.

Tullygally Primary School in Craigavon was identified as the best viable premises, however, it was to operate for one week instead of the normal two.

Some parents booked their children in for the week only to be informed in a letter from the school, last week, that this was no longer viable “due to the high numbers wishing to attend”.

In a letter to parents, the school’s principal Sandra Flynn, wrote: “As you are aware, EA has been scoping alternative arrangements for the summer scheme while essential works are carried out at Lisanally School.

“As part of the stakeholder engagement to inform this scoping exercise, we asked for your feedback in a parental survey so that we could best meet the needs of as many of the pupils as possible whilst exploring alternatives.

“Taking into consideration your feedback, the needs of the pupils, the required facilities, and limited number of summer scheme staff, Tullygally Primary School has been identified as the best viable premises, which offers safe facilities to support the needs of all of our pupils who wish to attend.

“We regret that we are unable to offer everyone a full time place, however, due to venue capacity and availability of staff and the offering is for two days rather than five days.”

Ms Flynn said those whop paid for the week will be refunded the difference.

One mum, who spoke to Armagh I, said not being able to avail to the summer scheme “will have a huge impact on my child as well as our family as a whole”.

She said: “By having the school-led summer scheme in place, it allows my child for much needed structure during the summer break; it lets him engage in various activities and have fun in a safe, familiar environment where I know his needs are going to be catered for and he enjoys it thoroughly. He always attends the full two weeks that are on offer. This year it has been cut down to just two days.”

She added: “Due to complex medical needs there is no summer provision in the ABC council area, private or otherwise, provided by SHSCT that is at all suitable for my child.

“In turn, while my child is in summer scheme, we can plan some activities with our older child, so they don’t miss out on having the chance to relax, engage and interact with the family; my older son also has specific educational needs.

“I believe the situation has been handled poorly as it wasn’t a last minute decision; they knew a long time in advance that Lisanally site will not be physically available and should have done the consultation with the EA, local authorities, charities and the parents a long time ago, instead of waiting until May to do so.”

A spokesperson for the Education Authority told Armagh I: “Lisanally Special School are unable to use their own school site for their summer scheme this year as traffic management works are due to commence at the school for a period of eight weeks.

“After consultation with parents, all possible venue options were explored before another school premises was agreed on. However, due to the to the high numbers wishing to attend, low staffing numbers and the capacity of the venue, it was not possible to offer each pupil a full week.

“It is recognised that the summer scheme is an extension of provision for children and their families when the school term ends and Lisanally Special School has always offered a very successful and greatly valued scheme to their school community.

“We recognise that pupils, parents and carers may be disappointed by the news, however, the health and safety of pupils at Lisanally Special School is of upmost importance.”

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