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Assembly Speech- Opportunities for Special Needs School Leavers 7/10/2008

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Mr Speaker/Deputy Speaker

I rise to support this motion.

I am sure this motion will unite the entire chamber and support for those in need should be the motivation of all who are here

Mr McCrea in his opening remarks made the point that that more than one type of support is necessary and with this I fully agree.
I met last week with a group representing primary school principals in East Belfast. They expressed their concerns about primary school funding and quoted the differential in funding between primary schools and secondary level education as being at the level of £1000 per pupil. This is not to say that secondary level funding should be cut but rather that primary education funding level should be upgraded.
With all the responsibilities now placed on teachers, including social and psychological care, along with the need to teach the three RRRs the funding package is just not sufficient. And they stressed the impediments this lack of funding has on those with special needs.
I mention this Mr Speaker/ Deputy Speaker only because there are children who have special needs at primary school who are not in receipt of the support they need and deserve and at the required level.
Early support is necessary for children with special needs to achieve their full potential. These comments are bit wider than the motion but never the less all children with special needs deserve to have the educational building blocks put in place that will assist them in leading a full and productive life after school.
In supporting the motion whilst I believe an holistic approach is necessary for special needs pupils, with this coming from across various departments, the essential preparation for a successful and complete life is in the secondary school years.
Preparing school leavers with
• careers education  lessons that will help them make informed decisions about their future
• work experience  providing students with opportunities to take part in attractive work experiences
• college linked courses  allowing students to attend a local FE college on a vocational link course to prepare them for leaving school
Mr Deputy Speaker this approach allows the student to prepare for a quality of life that will be both enjoyable and profitable.
There can be no doubt that access to education post school should be available to all. Many with special needs will not be able to take up employment opportunities and in that case the after school experience in FE must be satisfying and rewarding.
For those who can take up employment, and the Chair of the Employment and Learning Committee has made reference to evidence given to the committee by Robert who is supported by the Union of Supported Employment.
I recently visited the Orchardville Society and in doing so went out to the Law Courts to see a young man who had secured a job within the post room. He is operating within the same terms and conditions as all the other staff in the post room and is also attending an FE college.
This young man was provided with,
• in house training at the Orchardville Society
• Presented with a wide range of employment opportunities
• A chance to gain vocational qualifications
• And support all the way through to him gaining his own place to live
With a different approach – but none the less valuable Ulster Sheltered Employment Ltd (USEL) offer
• In house skills training leading to employment on site or outside the USEL premises
• Vocational qualifications
• Supportive and sheltered employment
The support towards a fulfilling life, from early years, whether this leads to employment or gaining further experience at an FE college should be available to people at all levels.
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