‘Investment in early years education is crucial’ – Rogers
Investment in early years education is crucial for children to give them the best opportunity to thrive in life, especially for those who have special needs.
That’s the view of SDLP South Down MLA Seán Rogers who says the years from childbirth to age six are critical for children and, in particular, in identifying educational needs and challenges.
During an Assembly debate about special education this week, the former school principal spoke of the pressing need to address the issue of children who have special needs and ensuring an early assessment is made of their educational requirements.
Rogers said, “Current funding and investment arrangements favour education at secondary or third level, rather than at an early stage of learning. I firmly believe a child’s development hinges on high quality early childhood education.
“The SDLP want to see adequate investment in early years learning, namely 0-6 years of age. The early years of a child’s life are critically important and early interventions can help them overcome significant challenges and reach their full potential.
“If there is a hiccup in this development and a special learning need has not been identified, or it takes too long to get a diagnosis, years upon years have been lost in a child’s development,” the SDLP MLA insisted.
“I really annoys me when I hear of a child with autism who hasn’t been diagnosed until they were eleven, or a P1 child – despite the efforts of teachers and parents – who was in P3 before the statement was complete and an individual education plan in place, but my frustrations are minuscule compared to those of the child and parents.
“In the child’s case these frustrations can manifest themselves in other ways – behavioural issues, or children withdrawing socially and which can lead to low self-esteem – such children are at a greater risk of being bullied in school.
“These children are often some of the most vulnerable in our society and an early intervention is imperative.”
Rogers says early years learning must be invested in properly, and added, “It is high time that the departments of Education and Health co-ordinate a strategic and integrated approach to supporting children with special educational needs, irrespective of which school they attend. This must be done at early years. Our young children cannot wait.”
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