Special needs nursery cuts ‘shambolic’

Jo-Anne Dobson MLA
Jo-Anne Dobson MLA

As the Education Authority apologises to parents over its handling of plans to cut hours for pupils in special school nurseries, MLA Jo-Anne Dobson has described their conduct as ‘nothing short of shambolic’.

The EA said it is ‘currently undertaking a review of a previous decision’ adding that ‘no new long term arrangements would be put in place until September 2017 at the earliest,’ at a meeting with Stormont’s Education Committee on June 15.

The cut would have affected disabled children in 14 special schools, however under interim arrangements, the agreed postponement does not apply to six of those schools which will see cuts from September 2016.

The EA said this move was to enable the schools to meet an unprecedented demand for places in 2016.

Commenting Mrs Dobson said: “By failing to put the needs of some of our most vulnerable pupils front and centre the handling of this issue by the EA has been nothing short of shambolic!

“Their proposals to cut pre-school provision for all pupils in special school nurseries down from 22.5 hours each week to 12.5 hours a week were fatally flawed from the outset.

“They need to begin a process of involving parents and pupils as well as the schools in the future of early years education.

“Handing down decisions like this in an over-bearing and uncaring way must become a thing of the past.

“I therefore encourage the Education Minister and the Executive to intervene as the EA attempt the pick up the pieces.

“Whist I welcome their apology it is the actions they take now to prioritise the needs of pupils and not the over-bureaucratic system that will be the measure of the EA on this issue.”