Belfast boy without place in primary school after missing nursery last year

The mum of a young Belfast boy with special needs has expressed her frustration and disappointment as he is without a place in primary school after missing out on a nursery one last year.

Lisa McCartney says she and her son Jamie have been "completely let down" by the Education Authority as he is yet to have a place in school confirmed for this year and fears that this will have a huge impact on her son's development. This is after he was unable to get a place in nursery school last year which caused him to fall behind in his education.

It comes as there are around 400 SEN children in Northern Ireland without a place confirmed in school this year.

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Read more: Protest held at Education Authority over lack of school places for SEN children

Speaking to Belfast Live, Lisa said that she had been assured by the Education Authority last year that Jamie would have a place in school organised without any issues after he was unable to have a place allocated for him in nursery school. But instead they have found themselves in the same situation once again.

The concerned mum says that throughout the process there has been "little to no communication from the EA" and that she has had to ring schools herself in order to find out if Jamie had managed to get a place.

She said: "Last year we went through hell trying to get Jamie a place in nursery school and were left completely in the dark by the EA throughout the whole process. In the end he had to go to a nursery that he was too old for and did not cater for children over the age of three which has had a huge impact on his personal development.

"After this we were promised by the EA on a number of occasions that we would not be put in the same position as last year and that they would do all that they can to ensure that Jamie gets the education that he deserves, but we are now facing the exact same thing again as he has no place in primary school this year.

"Again, throughout the whole process we have been kept in the dark by the EA, who do not answer phone calls or respond to emails when I ask about Jamie, and I have only found out that he has no place in school by contacting the schools we applied for directly.

"Sadly, we are not the only family who are in this position, as there are 400 other SEN children still waiting to hear where they will be in school next year and it is a disgrace that we have been put into this position again and SEN children appear to be an afterthought for the EA."

The families of SEN children without a place in school next year are planning a protest outside the offices of the EA on Academy Street next week on July 5, and are asking all who support them to join them at 10am.

A spokesperson for the Education Authority said: “We fully understand that this is an anxious time for the family and would assure them ensuring all children with a statement of SEN receive the right support in the right place is a critical priority for the Education Authority (EA).

“Each child’s placement is managed on a personal and individual basis, and the EA works with families, schools, and settings to ensure a suitable place is secured that will appropriately support and cater to their individual needs.

“Parents/carers awaiting confirmation have been advised that meetings with schools to discuss consultations are taking place across the month of June. All families will be informed as soon as possible once their child’s place has been finalised, based on their individual needs.

“As part of this consultation process, Principals confirm if their school is an appropriate setting to meet the needs of the child in line with their Statement of Special Educational Needs. As the number of places in any school will be finite, before any placements are agreed, the EA then looks at the profile of all children requiring a place and their complexity of need, to ensure they are placed equitably with peers in a setting which provides appropriate support.

“We would reassure parents/carers that the placement of children is considered in the context of each child’s individual circumstances and is not done on a first come first served basis, nor influenced in any way by media interest.

“Parents/carers of children who have any questions or concerns can contact their designated SEN Link Officer or the SEN Helpline which is open Monday – Friday from 9am – 5pm on 028 9598 5960. Alternatively further information on the statutory assessment process and dates of our face-to-face Drop-In Sessions are available on our website:

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