During Question Time to the Education Minister, East Antrim Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs asked the Minister “what lessons have been learnt from education pilot projects that relate to special educational needs provision, which provide support and resources more directly to schools.”
In response to the UUP MLA, Minister McIlveen stated:
“The targeted additional teacher support project for post-primary children with complex interaction of needs, a pilot programme that the Education Authority implemented, is based on the reallocation of classroom assistant hours to provide newly qualified teacher (NQT) hours to support children with statements of SEN. The Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) report on the initial pilot from March 2020 found that there was very positive collaborative work and practice, with skilled differentiation and good relationships among staff and pupils. It also found that pupils demonstrated a positive attitude towards engagement with learning.
A further pilot project has been rolled out and is being evaluated to track pupil progression against academic, social and emotional indicators, staff structure and management processes. Following the 2021 Public Accounts Committee recommendations, the Department has begun the procurement of an independent review of EA special educational needs services. The review includes: “an assessment of the impact of adult assistance on children’s outcomes”. The independent review report is due in the summer of 2022. The EA has decided to pause the expansion of the pilot project until it receives and considers the independent review report.”
Roy Beggs MLA who serves as a Governor at Roddensvale, followed up with a supplementary question, saying “I thank the Minister for her answer. In some post-primary schools, there can be three, four or even five classroom assistants standing at the back of a classroom waiting to intervene should the need arise. EA officials, EA board members and, indeed, the permanent secretary have all acknowledged that that is not a good use of public funds. When will all principals be given flexibility with their SEN funding so that they can employ additional SEN teachers and classroom assistants for one-to-one learning and small-group work and thus improve educational outcomes for pupils with special educational needs?”
The Education Minister responded by adding “I thank the Member for his question. He raises an interesting point that needs to be addressed. As he is aware, there are a number of reviews. Recommendations have come through from a number of reports, which, hopefully, will start to address some of those issues and make sure that need is identified and help is targeted appropriately to those who need it.”