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Page last updated at 16:51 GMT, Friday, 25 June 2010 17:51 UK

NI special school summer schemes to be 'cutback'

British currency
The cutbacks could save the board 82,000 this year

Pupils at special schools in Northern Ireland are feeling the effects of government belt-tightening.

The South Eastern Education and Library Board has cut its special school summer schemes from two weeks to one and has withdrawn free transport.

Around 300 children could be affected at the five schools where the schemes are run.

The arrangement allows some breathing space for the families of children who often need around-the-clock care.

'Regrettable'

The cutbacks should save the board £82,000 this year. It says the decision to cut back on the schemes was 'regrettable but unavoidable'.

This week on Politics Show from Northern Ireland, Yvette Shapiro reports on an issue that has raised the ire of parents.

Tracey Gilliland has two teenage sons who have benefited from the summer scheme at their special school in Banbridge. She says she has no sympathy for the board:

"We have learned since last week that mainstream youth activities are still going on over the summer while special schools are being cut from two weeks to one.

"I find that to be very discriminatory to our children."

Commissioner, Patricia Lewsley
There is a huge underspend on young people. Particularly for the most vulnerable.
Children's Commissioner, Patricia Lewsley

One important difference is that mainstream schools are funded directly from the Department of Education while special schools are funded by the education and library boards.

Similar cuts to special school schemes have been made in the western and south-eastern boards.

The Children's Commissioner, Patricia Lewsley, has been fielding complaints from angry parents.

"We need the Executive to take collective responsibility for what's going on," she says.

"There is a huge underspend on young people. Particularly for the most vulnerable."

As the effects of George Osborne's budget filter through to Northern Ireland the summer schemes controversy may be a sign of things to come.




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