Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the Child Poverty Action Group Northern Ireland


  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.

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