Education Facilities: Equal Access

Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 6 December 2021.

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Photo of Robbie Butler Robbie Butler UUP 3:15, 6 December 2021

T4. Mr Butler asked the Minister of Education what steps she is taking to ensure that equal access is a reality for children at all educational facilities, given that she will be aware of the very successful first Disabled People's Parliament that was held in the Chamber on Friday 3 December, at which the contributors raised many challenges for MLAs as legislators, with Christine and Lilia McClements raising the issue of equal access to public services. (AQT 1874/17-22)

Photo of Michelle McIlveen Michelle McIlveen DUP

I thank the Member for his question. Unfortunately, I have not been able to see the footage from the parliament yet, but I intend to watch it. Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) pupil-specific minor works are a priority for my Department. We have challenging budgets, but that is a priority, and we see that throughout our schools. We need to raise awareness in schools and make sure that all pupils have access to facilities, and I am happy to work with any school in order to provide that.

Photo of Robbie Butler Robbie Butler UUP

I thank the Minister for her answer, and I encourage her to watch the video. It is very good, and lots of challenges were raised. What work can the Department and you, Minister, do in order to ensure that the voices of those parents and children that have that user experience are heard and that whatever they tell us is actioned?

Photo of Michelle McIlveen Michelle McIlveen DUP

I thank the Member for his question. My Department and the Education Authority work very closely with schools, young people and parents, and if anything needs to be adapted, they will certainly respond to that. We also work very closely with contractors in order to ensure that, if there are requests, they are delivered within a time frame that is useful to the school. I have been in schools that use a variety of methods to make their school accessible, but there are other schools that require quite a considerable amount of intervention. I was at one school recently and heard that, unfortunately, because of the different levels there, in some ways, that puts off young people with a disability. That should not happen in this day and age.