Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Minister urged to end school strike that left David at home in tears

The angry mother of a disabled child has called on the Education Minister to "put her hand in her pocket" to end the classroom assistant strike or special needs pupils will suffer.

Gillian Caulfield's four-year-old son, David, suffers from Global Developmental Delay and attends Mitchell House School in east Belfast.

Classroom assistants in Northern Ireland returned to the picket lines for a three-day strike this week. And due to the dispute, the 33-year-old had to keep her son at home.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph Mrs Caulfield - who is six months pregnant - described the recent days as " awful".

"He was crying, looking out of the window wondering where the bus was to take him to school," she said.

" It is tiring for me, especially as I am pregnant, but it is worse for David.

"He misses school and he needs routine and structure.

" David is the one losing out. He needs to know he is getting up in the morning and going to school.

"He loves it, and he loves the classroom assistants."

Mrs Caulfield said school also offers parents a much-needed break.

"It is a real family atmosphere at the school. They are like their second family. It is like respite for us when David goes to school in the morning, because I can get on with what I need to before he comes back," she said.

"I wouldn't change him for the world, but he is hard work."

Mrs Caulfield added she supports the classroom assistants, but is angry with both the Education Board and Education Minister Caitriona Ruane.

"I'm not angry with the classroom assistants, I'm angry with the Education Board and Education Minister. She came out and said there was millions of pounds for education - where is it?," she asked.

"She needs to put her hand in her pocket and get the money out now, because this is when our kids need it. For a strike to happen, both the board and Minister had to know - and they let it come to this. It is the special needs children who are suffering."

PUP leader and MLA Dawn Purvis said the strike has left numerous families badly affected.

"Throughout this week we have heard from classroom assistants, trade unions and the department, but some of the people affected most by this dispute are the parents, and particularly parents of special needs children. It is not good enough. Classroom assistants play a vital role in the children's development. "

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