"Special Needs Assessment System Has Crumbled, Emergency Intervention is Required" - Brolly
Statistics released to the Aontú representative for East Derry, Gemma Brolly, show that the Covid-19 pandemic saw requests for Special Needs Assessments increase by a third. Aontú has called for emergency intervention from the Assembly. Ms Brolly was speaking today in the midst midst World Autism Week, after a letter was issued to school principals in the north by the Education Authority which said that the authority would not be able to provide the same level of support as it has done in the past.
Speaking today Ms Brolly said:
"The latest correspondence from the Education Authority to inform school principals of the inability to provide the same level of support in terms of Special Needs Assesments this year as was provided in previous years has come as a major blow to an already crumbling education system. It will majorly affect the education and wellbeing of hundreds of children across the North. As teachers, we have always been horrified by the weakness of our system in being able to cope with Special Needs assessments and supports. On average only one in every hundred children were able to be assessed. I think it must be highlighted in the midst of World Autism Week in particular we have children who have been waiting on assessment now for almost 3 years. We have grappled with this, fighting for the support our pupils require, pleading and begging for years. The system has been so soul-destroying and many stepped away from the role of Special Needs Co-ordinators, particularly in the context of the introduction of the new Code of Practice".
Ms Brolly continued: "As a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator I am truly exasperated at this latest admission of reduction in service. I have great sympathy for our Educational Psychologists as I know, like ourselves they too are swamped. Special Educational Needs Assessments have risen by almost 500 in the past academic year, when compared with pre-COVID statistics. Parental referrals have risen by almost one third since pre-COVID and unfortunately there is a significant shortage of Educational Psychologists out there, with no prospect of increasing the capacity until at least 2025. Our children simply cannot wait that long! Aontú have called this out again and again. Our system is on its knees, it has been crying out for investment and forward thinking, forward thinking in the form of adjusting the pathway into Educational Psychology, provision of permanent learning support, recruitment of teachers and classroom assistants and training in areas of special educational needs".
"We are drowning in a sea of last-minute action and promise. The Education Authority will not have to look in the faces of parents and their children to tell them the provision has been significantly reduced and their children’s needs will be further neglected, but those of us working on the frontline will. We therefore demand urgent action in the form of increasing human resources in our schools to help support our struggling children when the Education Authority cannot. For years now we've known the system was crumbling. What the most recent statistics, released to Aontú under the Freedom of Information Act, show is that it now has crumbled, and emergency action is required immediately", concluded Ms Brolly.