Northern Ireland girl's first day of school to last an hour over Education Authority delays
The father of a young girl starting primary school on Monday says she will only be able to stay for one hour because the Education Authority has not prepared her school for her arrival.
Five-year-old Holly has spina bifida and hydrocephalus and needs a special desk and changing facilities, while the teachers who deal with her need specialist training.
Her father Johnny told the BBC Stephen Nolan show that despite an application being made over a year ago, they have received little to no communication from the Education Authority about the equipment and training Holly needs in order to attend Kilmaine Primary School in Bangor.
Johnny said the school had gone "above and beyond" in trying to get the arrangements in place but had been frustrated by the Education Authority. He said training was promised in May after the application was made to the organisation.
"We didn't hear anything over the summer, even through we sent 15 plus emails.
"The only communication we had was when we were told the member of staff dealing with our application had changed department.
"We were given two new contacts in May but we never get any reply from them.
"We were then told our application had been lost."
Johnny said there were similar problems when Holly, who also uses a wheelchair, started nursery school last year.
"My concern is we'll have this problem every year going forward because her needs are always changing.
"They need to get these things sorted, it's not like it's sprung on them - they've known for a long time that this needs to be done," he said.
Holly's father said his daughter feels different enough and the complications around her attending school had upset her.
"She's had a tough start to life and first had surgery when she was four days old. She's had six or seven surgeries so far - brain surgery and she's due another one this year to resolve issues with her back. She has all these issues but she's as happy as any other five year old.
"Like any parents, we want everything for her and we'll do anything to achieve that. We chose that school because we believe they can give the support and help her grow. I can't fault the school at all," he said.
"They've gone above and beyond to try and be able to get everything in place. They're just not getting the support from them."
Johnny said after the Nolan Show contacted the Education Authority he was told the equipment required would be delivered on Monday and training done as soon as possible.
"I can only relate the training to the training they received in Holly's nursery school and it takes a day. In terms of when it's going to be done, they still have to come back to me on it," he said.
"They say it will be a priority but they can't give me any specifics as to when it will be done."
"We're still hopeful we can get this sorted. As parents, we're used to being let down by government bodies, but it's more upsetting for Holly because she's feeling even more different than she is."
The Education Authority has been contacted for comment. It told the Nolan Show it could not comment on the circumstances of individual children.
"When the specific needs of children are being assessed, this will include any additional equipment or support they may require," a statement said.
"The Education Authority works closely with parents and schools to achieve the best possible outcome to ensure that the special needs of children are met."
Belfast Telegraph Digital