Belfast father's worries as special needs son has no place in secondary school next year

A concerned father has expressed his frustration with the Education Authority as his special needs son is without a place in secondary school next year.

Christopher Flannagan-Kane says that he is worried about the future education of his son Aodhan after being told that he does not currently have a place in secondary school next year after finishing primary seven.

Aodhan has a statement of special needs after being diagnosed with autism and ADHD and has spent the past three years learning in a SEN unit at a school in West Belfast.

Read more: Special school principal tells parents 'lobby your politicians, don't blame staff' ahead of strike closure

Read more: Lisburn mum says teenage son with complex special needs faces uncertain future when he leaves school

Speaking to Belfast Live, Christopher said that he and Aodhan's mother have been attempting to speak with the EA for a number of weeks in order to discuss their son's future, however they have struggled to get in contact with anyone.

He said that they had hoped their son could apply to a special school in the Belfast area that they had visited and believed was the perfect setting for Aodhan, but this was refused by the EA who put him forward for a different selection of schools, who ended up rejecting the young boy.

The Education Authority has said that just under 10% of children with special needs seeking a place in secondary school have not yet received one.

Christopher said: "It is very worrying that Aodhan has been left in limbo like this and does not know where he is going to be going to school next year and it does not seem right that he should be in this position and I am aware of others who are also without a place next year.

"For weeks we have been trying to speak with his link officer regarding his school next year and have not been able to get in contact with anyone.

"It is also very frustrating and disappointing that the school that his mother and I had hoped to apply to was ignored and the EA decided to put him forward for different schools entirely, which would not have been suitable for him in the first place.

"It feels like SEN children and their parents and our views on what is best for our children are being ignored and decisions are being made for us without any regard for the impact that it will have on our children."

A spokesperson for the Education Authority said: “We recognise that transition to a new school is a very important milestone for children and families, and the Education Authority (EA) is committed to ensuring every child has a school placement which helps them reach their full potential.

“For every child with a statement of SEN, their placement is managed on a personal and individual basis. We have a statutory duty to consult with schools/settings and families to ensure a suitable place is secured that will appropriately support and cater to their individual needs.

“Unlike general admissions which has set application dates, new statutory assessments are received throughout the school year. Therefore, families are informed once their child’s school placement has been finalised and a statement is in place, rather than on a fixed date.

“However, we can confirm that more than 90% of P7 children with a statement of special educational needs have already received notification of the school they will be attending in Year 8. We have also been in contact with the parents/carers of P7 statemented children who are still awaiting confirmation of a place and are committed to working closely with these families to ensure as smooth a transition as possible into their new school environment.

“In addition, EA have scheduled a range of Drop-In Sessions where parents/carers with concerns can meet with SEN Link Officers to discuss their individual circumstances, details of which can be found at or contact the SEN Helpdesk on 028 9598 5960.”

The Education Authority also said that while it acknowledges parents' preferences for school placements, all final decisions are made by the EA's Statutory Assessment and Review Service.

A spokesperson for the Education Authority (EA) said: “We are firmly committed to ensuring that all children with special educational needs (SEN) get the right support from right people, at the right time and in the right place.

“The EA has a statutory duty to consult with schools/settings and families, in order to secure an appropriate school placement for children with SEN in line with their individual assessed needs.

“Whilst EA acknowledges the right of parents to express their preferences for a school placement. All final placement decisions are determined by the EA's Statutory Assessment and Review Service, after considering parental preferences, assessed needs, and all professional advices including those of the Educational Psychologists."

For all the latest news, visit the Belfast Live homepage here and sign up to our daily newsletter here.