Mr Robin Swann MLA, the Ulster Unionist Party’s Westminster candidate for North Antrim, has called on the Minister for Employment and Learning to “seriously consider raising the age limit at which students with special educational needs (SEN) could remain in their schools from 19 to 25”.
Assemblyman Swann, who is UUP Chief Whip and Chairman of the Stormont Employment and Learning Committee, was speaking during an Assembly debate on the issue.
“We are currently undertaking an inquiry into post-SEN provision and the effects that that will have on what is there. I am looking for clarity on how this legislation will have an effect on our inquiry, because, at a number of the stakeholder events that we have had, some parents have stated that they would, ideally, like the opportunity to extend their children’s statements beyond the age of 19.”
“I suppose that really relates to clause 13 and the definition of a child. I am asking the Minister for Employment and Learning to look at that definition to see whether there is the possibility of extending the statement for a small number of pupils who are attending special schools where their parents, and possibly their teachers, would see the benefit in increasing that age to 23 or, in some cases, to 25.”
“Part of my concern comes from the evidence sessions that we already had. Work is already being done in our primary schools to prepare children with special educational needs. However, once they hit 19 years of age and the transition process, the lack of current provision is a real problem. We see schools building up young people only for them to have nowhere to go and nowhere to keep that will for learning or the advantage that they gained in the school.”
“I want to ensure that there is a cross-departmental approach from Education, Health, and Employment and Learning to make sure that there is a complete package for the large number of children we now see diagnosed with special educational needs.I want to ensure that provision. However, my real thrust, coming at this from the Employment and Learning view, concerns clause 13 and whether there is any option or opportunity to extend the definition of a child,” said Assemblyman Swann.