A SPECIAL needs school, which was described as ‘outstanding’ in its latest education inspection report, is in danger of closure because of a lack of support from the education boards, its chairman claims.
A Department of Education inspection at Dungannon’s Buddy Bear School, conducted in February of this year, found that its quality of education was good and its pastoral care outstanding.
However, the conductive education school is fighting an uphill battle in securing funding from the local education and health boards.
Buddy Bear Trust chairman, Brendan McConville said: “We are being discriminated against by the health boards, because at the minute they are refusing to supply funding for health and learning assistants for our pupils. If these children were attending a state school, the health board would be obliged to fund the posts, but because we are independent we are being refused.
“This is disadvantaging our pupils who come here and benefit from special therapies that aren’t avaialble elsewhere.”
Following a concerted campaign, Health Minister Edwin Poots has pledged his support for the school.
A teacher at the school described its transformative approach to education.
“At the Buddy Bear School, it’s an everyday process, whereas physiotherapists only see the child once a day for perhaps an hour”, she said.
“We offer a holistic approach. We don’t just teach the children how to sit and stand, we work on holding a spoon, feeding and dressing themselves. We also follow the Northern Ireland Curriculum for special needs like any other special school. What children learn during the day is implemented at home, so basically they get a 24/7 education.
“You wouldn’t believe how happy and appreciative the parents are when they’re told what to do with their child and how to do it. We teach the child how to learn. Just because part of the brain’s damaged doesn’t mean that the other part should be neglected.”
Brendan McConville, chairman of the Buddy Bear Trust, has worked tirelessly to raise money for the school. He explained that the school isn’t in competition with special schools. Rather, the Buddy Bear School is keen to work in partnership with them.
The Buddy Bear Trust Conductive Education School is an independent school registered with the Department of Education (DE) and under the management of the Buddy Bear Trust, a charitable company established to promote conductive education.
The school provides full-time education for three children, aged 4 to 8 years, and for eleven children who attend every two weeks for a one hour session. A further five children are supported on request from their parents.
The children have significant difficulties associated with cerebral palsy, severe learning difficulties and additional medical conditions.