SDLP Education Spokesperson Daniel McCrossan has expressed his dismay after it emerged that over 300 children with special educational needs (SEN) are without a school place.
The Education Authority (EA) has confirmed that the pupils are without a place for the start of the new school term in September.
Mr McCrossan said he could not understand how SEN children had once again been failed by the EA, despite similar issues in previous years.
West Tyrone MLA Mr McCrossan said:
“I'm disappointed by this news, but not surprised. Once again the most vulnerable children in society have been let down by the very body that was established to be their champion, this is wholly unacceptable. Last year, there was an issue with late school appeals, the year before, a similar issue with school places. Yesterday's report into the Education Authority found that the EA is not pupil-centric, today we see one of the out workings of this.
“It is clear there has been a lack of strategic planning, it is not good enough for the EA to report that there has been a ‘significant rise’ in demand for special school places as the reason for 300+ children not being placed. This growing trend has been evident and well known for years. The system has had time to meet the need for places yet we seem to be in permanent crisis management mode. This cycle must be broken.
“Children with special educational needs are particularly vulnerable and find coping with change and transitions especially stressful. They need to be prepared for the upcoming changes in their lives to relieve their heightened anxiety levels. To have placed them in this position is a serious failure of duty to care. I hope for the sake of these children and their parents that this situation is rectified immediately and their school places are confirmed."