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Special school place hopes dashed at last moment

PARENTS of children with special needs were only told at the last moment that there was no school place available for them this year.

And a local councillor has challenged the Southern Education and Library Board to reviews its allocations policy and explain why this was allowed to happen.

Sinn Fein representative Liam Mackle claimed a number of parents had been told at the last moment that there was no place for their child at the school they had prepared for.

He said the children all have Special Educational Needs Statements yet they face the new school year with no placement available.

“This situation is unacceptable,” he said.

“The end of August should be an exciting time for children and parents as they prepare for a new school year but for the parents who contacted me this is not the case. At the last moment they were informed that no places were available for their children in the schools they expected to attend.”

Mr Mackle said these children “are amongst our most vulnerable and often require a lot of preparation for changes in their lives”.

“It is a disgrace that placements were not sorted at the end of the previous school year,” he said.

“The SELB’s position on Special Educational Needs provision is often vague where clarity is required but if a child needs a full-time assistant their statement should state so and if they need placement in a special learning unit a place should be available.”

He said he had written to the Education Minister John O’Dowd seeking his intervention with the Board.

“These children’s expectations have been dashed at the last possible moment.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said: “We have received Cllr Mackle’s letter and will be liaising with the SELB on the issues raised before responding directly to him.”

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