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Education Authority under fire over crisis in special school pre-school provision

A solution to the current crisis in special school pre-school places does exist.

But it will take flexibility on the part of the Education Authority.

That was the verdict of Upper Bann MLA Catherine Seeley, who spoke after the issue came under sharp scrutiny at a sitting of Stormont’s Education Committee.

The Education Authority chief executive and chairperson were summoned before the committee to answer questions.

Ms Seeley brought with her letters and emails from parents demanding full-time special school pre-school provision.

Speaking afterwards, she said: “Whilst I welcome assurances from the chief executive and chair of the Education Authority that the provision for places will be extended by approximately nine schools, including local school Ceara, I am concerned that the Education Authority is guilty of a lack of flexibility and adaptability.

”I expressed concerns at the fact that, despite there being a 20 per cent increase in the need for special school pre-school places, this issue has only been brought to the Education Committee now.

”The idea that some children will be given 2.5 hours is not enough time and it doesn’t meet the needs of children with special needs who are some of the most vulnerable in our society.”

The local Assemblywoman said solutions had been offered that would assist in dealing with the current situation but claimed “these suggestions seem to have been ignored”.

“For example, if we look at Fleming Fulton School which has a capacity for 20 pupils, it remains empty at the current time,” she added. “I am calling on the Education Authority to immediately engage with special school principals with the view to seeking an urgent resolution of this issue.”

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