LISBURN councillors have met the Commissioners running the South Eastern Education and Library Board to discuss controversial development proposals to establish ‘Learning Support Units’ in four schools in the Board area - units currently housed in Knockmore Primary.
Councillor Stephen Martin, Chairman of the Corporate Services Committee, said the Council was not opposed to the Board’s proposals to develop four specific learning support units across its area.
“However, as discussed at the meeting the Council is very keen to ensure that the existing units at Knockmore Primary School are unaffected by these proposals” he said.
“The educational provision and support for those with special needs at Knockmore is commendable and it should be used as an example of best practise by the Board as it works to establish new learning support units. In doing so the existing provision at Knockmore should not be diminished as part of any development proposals.”
Councillor Roy Young, Vice-Chair of the Committee, added: “Knockmore Primary School has a steady pupil base and one in three pupils at the school are catered for within its Special Units for communication, speech and language. Approximately fifty percent of the pupils who begin their education in one of the school’s special education units transfer into mainstream classes and require no additional or specialist support.
“This success rate should be replicated in the new units without any disruption to Knockmore. I hope the Board will use Knockmore as its model for the proposed new learning support units and work with the Council and the school’s representatives as its plans progress.”
Alderman Paul Porter said Knockmore Primary continued to be a success story at every level and is exemplar in supporting those with special needs.
“Through the excellent work undertaken by the education staff at Knockmore Primary School many of those with special needs are able to transfer into mainstream classes” he said. “This best practise should be replicated as required across the area of Learning Support Units proposed by the Board.
“At a time of increasing numbers of those children diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorders and other special learning needs, the Board should not reduce the current provision at Knockmore Primary School. I and my fellow elected members are very keen to hear from the Board in the near future about the empirical evidence that it will be basing its final decisions on.”