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Education Authority to review 'flawed decision' to cut nursery hours in Northern Ireland special schools

Published 08/03/2016

Nursery hours cut was due to come into effect in September and affect all 39 of Northern Ireland's special schools
Nursery hours cut was due to come into effect in September and affect all 39 of Northern Ireland's special schools

The Education Authority (EA) is to review the decision to reduce nursery hours for children at Northern Ireland's special schools.

The move was due to come into effect in September and affect all 39 special schools. The proposed cut would mean pre-school children with moderate to severe learning difficulties will attend school for 2.5 hours instead of at least 4.5 hours a day.

The decision to cut hours was revealed by the EA in a letter to a parent. Education Minister John O'Dowd has now asked the EA to urgently revisit the move and said it was a "flawed decision".

Mr O'Dowd said: "Given the current level of concerns and what I consider to be a lack of proper consultation on behalf of the authority with parents and schools on this matter, I have instructed the chair to formally revisit the decision reached in June of 2015."

DUP education spokesman Peter Weir welcomed the announcement of a review.

The North Down MLA, who is also Chair of the Assembly’s Education Committee said: "The announcement of this review into the Education Authority’s decision to limit nursery provision for all special needs schools. It is a victory for parent power and common sense.

"While there are pressures within the sector, a one size fits all approach to children with a wide range of needs is inappropriate. Reducing the extent of early intervention for many special needs children will also be counterproductive.

"I have spoken to the Chief Executive of the Education Authority today and will be meeting with the Authority as soon as possible. I want to work with both the Education Authority and the Department of Education to ensure the most appropriate nursery provision is made for some of our most vulnerable children."

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