SDLP Newry & Armagh MLA Justin McNulty has highlighted the need for greater school support for pupils and students with autism and other special educational needs.
At Wednesday’s Assembly Education Committee, Mr McNulty raised the case of a nine-year old boy from Co Antrim, whose mother had to take the Education Authority (EA) to an independent appeals panel to get support.
The tribunal ruled in favour of the family and found the support offered by the EA was inadequate.
The committee has committed to scheduling another meeting with the EA before the end of the current Assembly mandate to discuss the issues raised.
Mr McNulty said Sinn Féin Finance Minister Conor Murphy’s proposed 2% cut to the education budget would only put further strain on services.
Newry & Armagh MLA Mr McNulty said:
“My thoughts go out to the nine-year-old boy affected in this awful case and his family. They have gone through a terrible experience and have suffered considerable trauma as a result. The sad fact is this is not the only family in this situation, there will be numerous similar cases across the North involving young people with special educational needs not getting the support required and it’s long past time something was done about it.
“We need to see action to ensure no other family has to go through such an ordeal. Every pupil with special educational needs must get the help and support they need and are entitled to so that they can reach their full potential in education. We have heard about plans for overhauling the way we deal with pupils with special educational needs for years, but we need to see urgent movement, we can’t continue to see children and families like this being failed.
“I have worked with many families who have children with special educational needs and many are left angered and distraught just trying to access the help and support their children deserve. I have used my role on the Education Committee to regularly shine a spotlight on the challenges these families are facing, but that can only achieve so much. The best way of caring for pupils with special educational needs is a properly funded education system that caters to, supports and empowers children of all abilities.”