Belfast Telegraph

Funds blow for special language unit in Derry

By Donna Deeney

Campaigners fighting for the retention of a special school unit have been dealt a devastating blow.

It’s been revealed Woodland Specialist language unit was not included in a £7.4m grant from the Department of Education.

It is under threat of closure after the Western Education and Library Board (WELB) deemed it “unsuitable” as it was situated on the grounds of Belmont Special School in Londonderry.

Belmont was awarded a multi-million pound package from Education Minister John O'Dowd.

Parents of children who use the unit have vowed to continue their campaign until the close of the consultation period in September.

Spokeswoman Caroline McCleary, whose seven-year-old son attends the language unit four days a week, said she feels let down.

She added: “I am shocked and bitterly disappointed by this news.

“While this is definitely a setback, it will not stop us in our fight, in fact it will make us all the more determined that the minister does not forget about our children.”

Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey, who has backed the campaigners, said it is important decision-makers know the strength of feeling there is in support of the unit.

WELB declined to comment. A ministerial spokesman said: “The capital planning process for Belmont House Special School is based on enrolment figures for Belmont House Special School and does not include Woodlands language unit.

“I am advised that the proposed location of the speech and language unit will be managed through a pre-consultation process that has already been commenced by the WELB with the relevant stakeholders.”

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