McGrath Says Water Cannot Be Muddied On Cuts To Special Needs Education

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South Down MLA Colin McGrath (SDLP) has blasted the Education Authority for their decision to proceed with cuts to preschool nursery provision for children with learning disabilities.

Originally the Education Authority planned to cut special school nursery provision from 4.5hours a day to 2.5 hours by September 2016. Today the Education Authority announced that of the 20 schools that would be affected, 14 would have their services unaltered until September 2017 while in the six remaining schools the original plan would proceed.

Colin McGrath MLA.
Colin McGrath MLA is concerned about pre-school funding for children with disabilities. 

Mr McGrath said: “This morning, headlines read ‘Education Authority to suspend plans to cut nursery hours in special schools’. This is extremely misleading and has angered parents across the north whose children will be disadvantaged by these cuts.

“The intention of the Education Authority to cut preschool services for special needs children has not changed. That must be made crystal clear.

“Six of the 20 of schools targeted by these cuts have not been spared at all and will see a serious reduction in provision starting from September. Those that have will be given a stay of execution until only September 2017.

“There has been a clear attempt to muddy this issue, to divide or confuse opposition to their decision. Maybe the Education Authority were hoping that by announcing a suspension they could delay negative headlines, buy off the parents who now have a year longer than others, or confuse those of us who are completely opposed to this decision. They were wrong. We will continue to campaign until this plan is scrapped.

“We are not talking about thousands of children, only 304 need this support. Targeting them with cuts will have a devastating impact on their development and shamefully discriminates against those children who need help most.”

Francine Burrows of Parents for Equal Education Coalition added: “As parents we are very upset and worried about our children’s future and their education.

“We are extremely disappointed to hear that the Education Authority will be reducing the hours in six schools in sept 2016.

“We feel once again we have been misled by the Education Authority as the letter stated yesterday that there would be no changes before 2017, yet six schools are having hours cut and this will directly affect our children.

“We have no faith I the Education Authority as the people in charge of our children’s education.

“As it still stands on the 9th June, our very vulnerable children have no idea what school the will be going to in September and how long they will be there.”