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O’Dowd praises special education sector

Education Minister, John ODowd, has praised the quality of education provided in special schools across the north.
Thursday, 9 May 2013

The Minister was speaking at the inaugural conference of the Strategic Leadership Forum for Special Schools. The theme of the conference was ‘Putting Children First – Issues in Special Education’.

Addressing the delegates at the event in Cookstown the Minister said: “Special schools have a vital role to play in offering education and pastoral care to some of our most vulnerable children and young people. To implement a true policy of inclusion, there has to be an effective, structured and resourced alternative to mainstream schools for those children for whom such a school would not provide for their needs.

“That alternative is delivered very effectively across the north by our 40 special schools. They are an integral part of our education system and provide an invaluable service for nearly 5,000 children each year.

“If evidence is needed that the special school sector delivers for those children, we need look no further than the inspections that the Education Training Inspectorate has carried out in special schools over the last five years. The most recent inspections have found all of the inspected schools to be delivering a quality of education that is good or better. Fifty per cent are very good or outstanding and fifteen per cent are outstanding. These results are truly commendable and there is a culture of improvement across the special school sector that sets a very strong example for others to follow.”

The Minister continued: “As a reflection of my commitment to the continued success of the special school sector, I have protected my Department’s funding of special schools over the 2011-15 budget period. There has also been significant investment in the special schools estate through our capital building programme. Since 2007 there have been new state-of-the-art facilities provided at Brookfield, Cedar Lodge and Tor Bank Special Schools. I have also given approval to commence planning on the provision of new builds for Belmont, Rossmar, Castle Tower and Arvalee Special Schools and the relocation of St Gerard’s Resource Centre.

“So while cuts continue to be imposed on the Executive, I will continue to lobby for additional funds and explore ways of continuing to make the maximum level of funds available for front-line services such as special schools.”

In conclusion the Minister said: “The theme of this conference: ‘Putting Children First’, is very appropriate as that is what the teachers and staff in our special schools do on a daily basis and I would like to acknowledge their hard work, dedication and professionalism.

“I believe that the continued raising of standards in our education system can enable each and every one of our children to flourish and reach their full potential and I hope that all of those that work in our education system will continue to work together to make that a reality.”

Notes to editors:

  1. The Department of Education has launched a new ‘Education Works’ advertising campaign. The campaign encourages families to play, talk, read and count with their child and to ‘Get Involved Because Education Works’. Watch out for the ads on television, radio and outdoor locations. The campaign highlights the vital role families can play in helping children do well at school and improve their life chances. Visit nidirect website for more information or watch the TV ad on the Department’s YouTube channel.
  2. View photos from the Department of Education in our Flickr collection.
  3. Media enquiries to the Department of Education’s Communications Team on Tel: 028 9127 9207. Out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699715440 and your call will be returned.