Memorandum from the Child Poverty Action
Group Northern Ireland
SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS
We are greatly concerned at the numbers of parents
contacting our office requesting that we liaise, on their behalf,
with education boards and welfare education officers concerning
special/specific educational needs and the provision of such needs.
Unfortunately we do not have the resources to handle such requests
and are saddened that there is an obvious communication problem
from the education system to parents.
We are particularly concerned about the effects
on low income families who have to pay for private tuition. We
offer you a case for concern:
A lone parent mother with four children in receipt
of income support suspected that her youngest son had reading
and writing difficulties. When she approached the teacher about
the matter it was dismissed. The parent persisted and requested
her son be assessed. The school Principal (primary school) responded
by telling the parent that there was a two year waiting list for
assessments to be carried out. Her son was eventually assessed
and found to have a specific learning difficulty despite being
above average intelligence. The school offered no provision and
the parent was forced to pay a private tutor to meet her son's
educational needs. Her son is now at a secondary school which
is supposed to offer educational provision for his difficulty.
However the school has not provided for his needs since September
and the parent is again paying £10 per hour tuition fees.
This is not an exclusive situation but a common
one. Families on low income are being forced further into debt
to provide special educational needs for their children. Research
has shown that children from low income families are at a distinct
disadvantage within the education system and this is further compounded
when children have special educational needs.
CPAG (NI) calls on the Committee to consider
and seek evidence from families directly involved in the problem
of provision of special educational needs and to use such information
to help provide those needs more effectively and efficiently.
The information we have had from those directly
affected has shown that there is a need for professionals in the
delivery of special needs. A short training course for teachers
is not sufficient. If there are professionals within the private
education sector, surely money should be targeted at providing
professionals within the education system and placed in those
schools where students are socially and economically deprived.