UNISON Northern Ireland

Special Educational Needs Provision

The trade unions representing education workers in Northern Ireland held a protest at the Derry office of the Education Authority to highlight their common concerns over Special Educational Needs provision. The protest was timed to coincide with the monthly board meeting of the EA.  

The Education Authority NI has published for consultation 'Future Provision for Children in the Early Years with Special Educational Needs (SEN)' . In addition, material appeared in the local media on March 18th 2018 concerning a plan, allegedly being developed by EA, to completely re-organise the special education school provision in the Belfast area.

Speaking on behalf of the NIC-ICTU Education Trade Union Group, its chair Gerry Murphy noted: “These two issues are related and are a matter of great concern to both the schools communities directly affected and the trade union movement.  The children and young people concerned, among the most vulnerable individuals in our society along with their parents, have a right to be heard on this issue.

“The teachers, classroom assistants, medical personnel, therapists, bus drivers and administrative staff employed in the schools under threat along with their colleagues involved in pre -school provision are equally concerned for the children and young people and their own employment.

“As trade unionists, we are dissatisfied with the nature of the consultation. The proposal itself is clearly incomplete and vague, lacking any financial planning or detail on how the existing relationships with the various Health Trusts will be adjusted to meet the proposed changed provision. It also conveniently ignores the question of staffing going forward.”

ETUG vice-Chair Anne Speed added: “Furthermore the leak of the re-organisation plans for the special schools in Belfast has served to further ratchet up tension and mistrust between EA and the school communities in question.

“News that the EA has taken plans to –re-organise the Belfast Special Schools off the table is to be welcomed with caution. We await an official confirmation and we will not let our guard down until the situation is clarified. We remain determined that our members and the vulnerable children and young people who attend these schools will be protected from cuts which are not about making improvements but balancing budgets.”

Mr Murphy concluded: “The Education Group of Trade Unions are calling for the EA to stop these ill-informed and incomplete processes going forward, unless or until the EA can advance a properly researched and independently verified rationale for what they are proposing in regard to the pre-school proposals and the Special Schools in Belfast.”