Unacceptable crisis management in special educational needs has become the norm, says Mathison 

Assembly Education Committee Chair Nick Mathison MLA has said it is unacceptable crisis management in special educational needs (SEN) has become the norm.

Education Nick Mathison Special Educational Needs

The Alliance MLA was speaking after a meeting of the Education Committee, where officials outlined how almost 7,000 children with a SEN statement require a new or change of placement for September, and over 1,000 additional specialist education places will be needed to meet demand.

It was also revealed 291 schools had been contacted regarding the creation of specialist provisions in mainstream schools (SpiMs) but only 80 had agreed.

‘It is incredibly concerning the creation of additional SpiMs, at pace and as an emergency response to SEN placements, has become the norm, rather than long-term planning for the necessary SEN placements,” said Mr Mathison.

“There was no clear evidence to demonstrate these rapidly developed settings will deliver for SEN pupils, and no effective evaluation of the SPiMs we currently have in place.

“It appears he decision to establish the placements and provision needed lies entirely with a school whether they accept it and questions must be asked as to why more schools are not coming forward.

“I am concerned schools do not have confidence they will receive the necessary support from the Education Authority in the establishment and provision of a SPiM classroom - the focus for all should be the best interests of our SEN learners and there is a real risk this is lost as we  operate on a crisis footing.

“The Committee was unable to receive a clear answer to the question of which school type takes on the bulk of SEN provision. This is something I will be exploring with the Department, as it is vital all school types are committed to delivering for children with SEN.

“All schools should be inclusive settings which can cater for all pupils. We must all work together towards a solution which ensures all our children can access education provision which is appropriate for their needs.

“Alliance supports the necessary long-term reform of SEN services but the Department and EA need to get a handle on this year-on-year emergency provision for our children with SEN and disabilities.”