Parents of children with special needs worry their children will not get the education they deserve

Parents of school children with special educational needs say their kids are being denied specialist secondary education and being forced to attend mainstream schools.

Emmett Richardson, 11, is profoundly deaf and autistic.

He was due to leave primary school this summer but his parents have chosen to have him repeat P7 rather.

They’d rather he stayed back a year than face the trauma of attending an High school which is not set up to meet his specific needs.

Adrian Richardson says it will give them more time to see what their options are for him.

"We had to make a decision, to keep him another year in primary seven to buy us time because we don't know where we can send him."

"We need to be very careful for his mental wellbeing and also his education."

Adrian was one of a group of parents who met with MLAs at Stormont recently to plead their case for their children.

Emmett’s mum like all the others, is worried that he would be out of his depth in a mainstream school.

"He would be about five or six years behind just due to when he got implanted."

There are thousands of vulnerable children like Emmett in the same situation

Their parents feel completely let down by the Education Authority (EA).

"A lot of the parents that we are dealing with as a group are saying their children need specialist help, that they are not coping in units and they won't cope in mainstream secondary schools."

Lindsay and Darren Martin believe their son is will be excluded from getting a proper education.

He’s going into P7 next year but the future’s uncertain.

"We are scared of him not getting the right resources put in place, if they're not, he'll never meet his potential".

The Alliance Party’s Education spokesman, Nick Mathison says better planning and investment is critical.

"If we choose not to invest in the workforce to deliver for children with special educational needs and the number of places that we need in the appropriate facilities that we need, in the appropriate educational psychologist... the list could go on."

"It is our children who will suffer and what has become a year in year out crisis will only get worse. So this is about investing now to deliver the right outcome down the line."

A spokesperson for the Education Authority said: “We are firmly committed to ensuring that all children with special educational needs (SEN) get the right support from right people, at the right time and in the right place.

“The EA has a statutory duty to consult with schools/settings and families, in order to secure an appropriate school placement for children with SEN in line with their individual assessed needs.

“Whilst EA acknowledges the right of parents to express their preferences for a school placement. All final placement decisions are determined by the EA's statutory assessment and review service, after considering parental preferences, assessed needs, and all professional advices including those of the educational psychologists”

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