Memorandum from Barnardo's Northern Ireland
SPECIAL NEEDS EDUCATION IN NORTHERN IRELAND
Barnardo's is the largest United Kingdom Children's
Charity providing a range of social welfare services to 20,000
children, young people and their families. Of these more than
5,000 are disabled children and young people.
In Northern Ireland, Barnardo's provides 29
separate services. We provide a number of major family support
and respite services to disabled children in the Eastern, Southern
and Northern Board areas. The vast majority of disabled children
we work alongside in these services would have a severe/profound
Learning Disability. All the children would have Statements of
Special Educational Needs.
Barnardo's believe that the one critical issue
which needs to be addressed within Northern Ireland is the right
of children who have a disability to have equal opportunity within
mainstream schools. In the words of the Rt Hon David Blunket MP:
"Where all children are included as equal
partners in the school community the benefits are felt by all."
We strongly support the inclusive vision
of excellence for all as outlined in the recent Green Paper. We
would request that a similar consultation process should be undertaken
within Northern Ireland.
Barnardo's believes an inclusive education system
is the key to encouraging the full participation of disabled people
in society. Mainstream education provision should offer a range
of support services designed to achieve this.
Key messages from research show:
(1) Contact with other children is a vital
part of any child's life. Attending their local schools gives
children the chance to stay in their own communities and to develop
(2) Inclusive education helps all children
to develop a strong awareness of difference, and promotes respect,
understanding and co-operation.
(3) Being educated alongside other children
assists disabled children to do better, academically and socially.
(4) Children who are educated in segregated
schools tend to achieve less academically, have less confidence
and self-esteem, and are ill-prepared for an independent adult
(5) Segregated education is expensive. The
same resources could be gradually redeployed into support facilities
which enable disabled children to be educated in ordinary schools.
We are aware that within Northern Ireland the
demand for Special Needs Education is increasing which is reflective
of a range of factors, including the fact that many more disabled
children are living at home. We are concerned that the continued
expansion of the segregated Special Education Sector as evidenced
by the opening of new schools is short sighted and expensive.
There is a need for a strategic shiftsegregation is not
good for children (disabled and non-disabled) its not good for
families and its not good for communities.
Inclusion cannot be achieved overnight: the
transition to inclusive schools relies on careful planning and
the redeployment of the skills and expertise presently within
segregated sector to support children in mainstream. Inclusion
will not happen without the redeployment of these skills and expertise.
Barnado's would urge the Northern Ireland Affairs
Committee to examine expenditure now and in the long-term, and
to make the necessary strategic shift, to help create a better
future for all our children.
6 April 1998