Belfast Telegraph

Mum's fight for special needs unit in school to save girl daily trip of 46 miles

By Claire Williamson

A mother is petitioning for a special needs unit in Dromore as her six-year-old daughter faces having to travel 23 miles to go to a school that can accommodate her.

Sophia Cochrane (6) has difficulties with speech which rule her out of attending her local Dromore Central Primary School.

She is currently attending Carrick Primary School in Lurgan, which is helping her with her needs. But this is a two-year placement, and mum Jill says in September the only other school that will accept her is Thornfield Primary in Newtownabbey - 23 miles away.

She travels to Lurgan by taxi bus, but next year it will be a different taxi service, which is provided by the Education Authority.

Ms Cochrane said she wanted there to be consideration for local provision to be put in place to prevent her child and others having to travel miles.

She told the Belfast Telegraph: "It's awful. Where she goes at the minute, it's a bit of travel and she gets sick on the taxi bus and she is so isolated, she has no friends here in Dromore because of it.

"It's not fair on her at all. It takes a toll on her and on us, because we have to let our six-year-old daughter go in a taxi by herself and travel there to school and back again by herself.

"She just talks about how she is going to be sick. And how she is going to be so far away, and doesn't want to go as far either."

She added: "It's like me sending her to the shop 23 miles away by herself in a taxi."

The DUP's Sir Jeffrey Donaldson will take the petition to the Education Authority (EA).

He said: "This is a growing town and there are a number of families who have children that need additional support with their educational development.

"We would hope to explore with the EA the possibility of creating a unit in the Dromore area to meet the needs of the local community.

"We have excellent schools in the Dromore area and anything we can do to enhance the educational experience for local children is something we want to support. The objective should be that children are educated as close to home and their families as possible."

The EA said: "The Education Authority is committed to the development of special educational provision closer to where children reside. EA has outlined initial information in relation to this in the recently published Area Plan. It is envisaged that this work will be developed over the next few years."

For more information, visit www.change.org/p/jeffery-donaldson-specialist-unit-in-dromore-central-primary-school

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