Northern Ireland news

EA to 'create school places so pupils with special educational needs can attend nearest suitable school'

The Education Authority (EA) plans to 'create school places so that pupils with special educational needs can attend their nearest suitable school'

THE Education Authority (EA) plans to "create school places so that pupils with special educational needs can attend their nearest suitable school".

Amid a "significant growth" in the number of children with special educational needs over the past five years, the EA says the move to provide more school places will allow pupils to "adapt to their changing educational, physical and medical needs".

It is part of the first regional plan to focus on special education in the north, with plans due to be published by the EA today.

Data released earlier this year revealed a 26.4 per cent increase in the number of pupils accessing a placement in a special school since 2015/16.

There has also been a 24.1 per cent rise in the numbers accessing a placement in specialist provision in mainstream schools.

EA director of education Michele Corkey said: "I am particularly pleased to launch the first standalone Special Education Strategic Area Plan, given the significant growth in the number of children with special educational needs in Northern Ireland.

"We need to ensure there is sufficient provision in both special schools and specialist provision in mainstream schools to meet the needs of local communities.

"We also plan to create school places so that pupils with special educational needs can attend their nearest suitable school, which can adapt to their changing educational, physical and medical needs.

"This is an ambitious plan, but we welcome the challenge."

The EA today also publishes the 'Strategic Area Plan 2022-27: Planning for Sustainable Provision'. Among the issues highlighted are that there are "still too many small/unsustainable schools".

Figures reveal that of the 479 schools identified as rural and 505 identified as urban, a total of 282 schools (228 primary and 54 post-primary) fall below the minimum threshold.

The document highlights "when the sustainable schools policy minimum threshold is applied, 44 per cent of the rural schools fall below the 105 pupils in a primary school and 47 per cent fall below the 500 pupils in a post-primary school".

The EA plans state that "in taking forward change, an implementation plan, tailored to the specific needs of the change, will be prepared and made available to the affected school".

"The proposer will work with the school as the main link and provide support, guidance and direction throughout the process.

"They will also engage with and support staff, parents/guardians and pupils through the implementation plan."

Ms Corkey said: "For primary and post-primary schools we will work with all educational partners and stakeholders to ensure pupils have access to a broad and balanced curriculum that meets their educational needs in a school that is educationally and financially viable and sustainable".

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