The East Belfast MLA said the extension of a so-called interim cut in the daily provision from full-time to part-time hours was too important for the Education Authority to not put to public consultation, which the Authority claimed has not happened due to the collapse of the Executive.
“The Education Authority was required to review this decision and a public consultation was scheduled to run from January 10th to March 10th, 2017. However, the EA has instead claimed the election period, which only commenced on January 26th, delayed the consultation and required an extension of the so-called interim cut.
“Education Authority officials passed this decision to extend the reduction in hours at a board meeting in March, when eight political board members had yet to be appointed due to the election. As political appointees were absent for only one month in March and this review had been ongoing since at least October 2016, it is hard to conclude the presentation of this decision for approval in the absence of political appointees was anything other than an attempt to circumvent political accountability.
“A principals’ group referred to the reduction as watering down the intensive support required to address the complex needs of children in special schools and a petition of over 6,000 parent signatures was presented to then Education Minister Peter Weir opposing it.
“The political parties responsible for the collapse and hiatus of power-sharing can now add SEN nursery provision to the vital public services impacted by their intransigence. The Education Authority handling of this is yet another compelling reason for the formation of a functional Executive as a matter of urgency.”