“There is a Crisis in Education with Learning Supports. Our Children Deserve Better” - Brolly
Aontú Education Spokesperson and Representative for East Derry Gemma Brolly has demanded the provision of permanent learning support as the first step to addressing failures in the educational needs of our children.
Speaking today, Gemma Brolly said “Our schools are on their knees, those with the power to save them caught up in endless playground style power struggles” said Ms Brolly, a teacher and Special Needs Co-ordinator.
“I have never experienced a more infuriating time in my life in education than this academic year. Two years ago, I wrote to the Minister of Education (Edwin Poots) enquiring what proactive measures were being taken to help combat the limited availability of funding and resources, particularly within Education Psychology to which I received a polite reply to assure me everything possible was being done”
Ms Brolly continued “People like myself have now been left in a position, explaining to parents that even though they have waited for three years or more for their child to be assessed and even though they have done everything by the book, their child may have to wait another year.
“The choice you are presented with in this case is either make that child wait at least another year, or bump a child off the list and replace them with this child. How can you prioritise the education and wellbeing of children in such a way? You can’t and should never have to!”
“This is the heart-breaking and impossible situation every school in the country faces, and the there is no sign of change. More can be done however to improve the education and wellbeing of these pupils being denied their basic human right to access the standard of education they deserve.”
Brolly continued “We see this catastrophe steam rolling down the tracks and sure enough, here we are heading for the end of the line. In the previous academic year 2020-2021 67,824 (15%) Primary School children were recorded as having Special Education Needs but with no statement of Special Educational Needs. 6,584 (3.8%) children were recorded to have a statement.”
“In this current academic year, under the new stages (1-3) of the Code of Practice, the first recorded, we have 7,513 (4,1%) primary school pupils who have a statement of SEN and 24,898 (13.7%) primary school pupils who are recorded on the Special Educational Needs Register with no statement. Yet in the very same year, we had learning support programmes thwarted to release teachers to cover COVID absences. We had COVID funding withdrawn which hindered increased support (classroom assistants, teachers, etc.) The final nail was the notification informing us that the existing allocation of educational psychology time (which allows an average of 1 child in every 100 children to be assessed) would now be reduced as a result of increasing demand and strain on the educational psychology service.”
“Our schools need investment. Our children’s lives deserve investment and they deserve it now. Not investment in the form of short-term emergency budgets but in the form of long-term planning and budgets by a government prepared to work for the long-term. This begins with permanent learning support.
Aontú have been calling for this since the implementation of Engage. It can and should be done. We need increased human resources, staff need to be respected and encouraged with fair pay and enticed to train in areas of need so that they can support the learning needs of our children.
Aontú will continue to work to improve the education system for every child in the North, beginning with provision of permanent learning support for every school in the North. Our children deserve better and we will work to ensure they get it.