Gemma Brolly: Common Sense and Forward Thinking in Response to the Emergency Within our Education System.
Aontú Election Candidate for East Derry and Education Spokesperson Gemma Brolly calls for common sense and forward thinking in response to the emergency within our Education System.
“Our children are suffering on endless waiting lists and as a result of last minute action. Staff ‘on the ground are carrying the increasing mental and physical workload and yet expected to continue to carry more while undervalued and underpaid. Classroom assistants in particular, have been a lifeline to so many teachers and children yet they have been totally ‘forgotten’ in the grapple of crumbs from the executive’s table” Ms Brolly begins.
“Yesterday, schools learned that the Department has secured and earmarked “additional” funding of £22m to help schools make the necessary preparations for implementation of the new SEN framework, specifically for the role of a Learning Support Co-ordinator (current SENCo) and for the future implementation of Personal Learning Plans (current IEPs) for each child on the register. Whilst school staff are reassured by this move that the Department recognises the need to continue to support this implementation which is very much incomplete, we have to wonder what will change this time in order to actually improve Learning Support in itself, to support the real needs of the children?” probes Ms Brolly.
“Just last week we learned the already ridiculously stretched Educational Psychology Service would now be reduced due to inability to “provide the same level of support in terms of Special Needs Assessments” as previous years. This will of course significantly increase the pressure and desperation for support ‘on the ground’ in schools while children wait on what feels like never-ending waiting lists for assessment.”
Ms Brolly continues “This is an absolute emergency, yet the silence is deafening. Last minute pockets of investment here and there simply will not cut it. The Department and indeed the upcoming Executive must recognise the need to strengthen and increase Learning Support permanently, not through stints of Engage (which was unsuccessful for many due to the need to use teaching staff to cover absences) or any other short-term scheme but through permanent learning support in a system which respects and values its’ staff, paying fair wages to teachers and especially to classroom assistant who are the very definition of ‘learning support.’ In order for this to happen, we need forward thinking.”
Ms Brolly pledges “Aontú will strive to increase recruitment in these areas by pushing for fair wages, increasing opportunities and incentives to upskill and complete training in areas of need and by pushing for a review of pathways into educational psychology immediately, similar to our counterparts in the Republic which will increase educational psychology support. Only by methods such as these can we create an education system with no child left behind.”