Special Educational Needs  and Inclusion Review

Education – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 25th January 2010.

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Photo of Cathal Boylan Cathal Boylan Sinn Féin 2:30 pm, 25th January 2010

2. asked the Minister of Education why the consultation period for the review of special educational needs and inclusion has been extended.         (AQO 620/10)

Photo of Caitriona Ruane Caitriona Ruane Sinn Féin

Eisíodh an cháipéis chomhairliúcháin ‘Gach Scoil ina Scoil Mhaith — an Bealach chun Tosaigh do Riachtanais Speisialta Oideachais agus Chuimsiú’ le haghaidh comhairliúcháin ar an 10 Lúnasa 2009, agus ba é an 31 Deireadh Fómhair 2009 an chéad dáta deiridh do fhreagraí.

The consultation document ‘Every School a Good School: The Way Forward for Special Educational Needs and Inclusion’ was issued for consultation on 10 August 2009 with an initial closing date for responses of 31 October 2009. As there had been a delay of more than one year while the Executive considered the draft consultation document, and following their approval in July 2009, I agreed to issue the document for consultation as soon as possible to avoid further delay and to enable the public, schools and other stakeholders to begin to consider the proposals. After a number of requests from parents, schools, MLAs and others, I agreed to extend the closing date to 30 November 2009. Then, in early December, after further consideration, I decided to further extend the consultation period to 31 January 2010. My decision is based upon my firm belief that provision for children with special educational needs is of vital importance, especially to parents and schools. I want to ensure that everyone who wishes to respond to the proposals in the document has the time to do so.

It is imperative that provision for children with special educational needs builds upon the good practice that is already evidenced in many schools and that it is substantially improved upon so that no child has to experience a delay before the appropriate intervention is put in place.

The review proposals aim to build the capacity of schools to meet more effectively the needs of pupils with special educational needs through earlier identification of need, effective use of school-based interventions and through the advice and support that is available to them from a range of professionals, when necessary.

Photo of Cathal Boylan Cathal Boylan Sinn Féin

I thank the Minister for her answer. How much of the funding for special educational needs will be spent on groups that have additional educational needs, such as Traveller or newcomer children? Go raibh maith agat.

Photo of Caitriona Ruane Caitriona Ruane Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a Chathail. Ní aitreofar aon chistiú ó riachtanais speisialta oideachais chuig grúpaí eile a aithníodh faoi choinceapanna riachtanais bhreise oideachais.

No funding will be diverted from special educational needs to the other groups that have been identified within the additional educational needs concept. Each of the groups that have been identified has its own specific policy and attracts its own funding streams. That will continue to be the case.

In 2007-08, around £185 million was spent on special educational needs. In 2008-09, £202 million was spent on special educational needs; £6·5 million was spent on supporting newcomer children; £1·1 million was spent on our Traveller children; £569,000 was spent on school-aged mothers; £345,000 was spent on looked-after children; £7·65 million was spent on promoting positive behaviour; and £1·99 million was spent on the emotional health and well-being of pupils.

Photo of Mary Bradley Mary Bradley Social Democratic and Labour Party

Does the Minister agree that any changes in special educational needs procedure should not threaten the statutory rights of the children who have special needs or those of their parents?

Photo of Caitriona Ruane Caitriona Ruane Sinn Féin

I absolutely agree that it is important that the money that goes to our children with special educational needs is ring-fenced. I know that some people have stated that that is not the case; therefore, I will clarify it.

Meastar go mbeidh leithdháiltí a thugtar do scoileanna mar gheall ar riachtanais speisialta oideachais so-aitheanta agus inmhonatóiriú.

It is envisaged that allocations that are made to schools under any special educational needs factor that might be developed under the local management of schools formula will be easily identifiable to schools, and, therefore, will be able to be monitored.

During the talks that led to the St Andrews Agreement, and, indeed, in any discussions that we have had, my party always prioritised rights and equality. Those rights and the equality of children will continue to be prioritised.

Photo of John McCallister John McCallister UUP 2:45 pm, 25th January 2010

Does the Minister acknowledge the findings of the Lamb inquiry, which showed that parents value a statement of special educational needs because it is legally enforceable and that they want a new system to work better than the present one? Will she assure the House that she will take into consideration the findings of the Lamb inquiry? Does she think that parents have a lack of trust in her to deliver a suitable policy?

Photo of Caitriona Ruane Caitriona Ruane Sinn Féin

Is í is aidhm do na tograí ná soláthar do pháistí agus do dhaoine óga a bhfuil riachtanais speisialta oideachais acu a fheabhsú taobh istigh den scoil.

The proposals aim to enhance the provision for children and young people with special educational needs within their school setting, by ensuring that they get the right support at the right time, without the need to wait for long periods for external assessment or support when it can be provided from within the school’s resources. The proposals do not and will not reduce the rights of parents as currently available to them through the appeals mechanism of the special educational needs and disability tribunal. Depending on the detailed outworking of the proposals, parental rights may be differently reflected, but that detail is yet to be developed and can only be considered following consideration of the responses to the consultation.

I have been to many special schools and have met with the parents of many children with special educational needs. Our Department consulted with a very wide range of parents and educationalists, and we have produced for consideration a very thorough policy. We welcome anyone and everyone making a contribution to it, and we will read the responses very carefully.

Photo of William Hay William Hay Speaker

Question 3 has been withdrawn.