Ramsey's concerns over future plans for speech unit

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The SDLP's Pat Ramsey tabled the adjournment debate on Woodlands Speech and Language Unit in Londonderry, on 12 March 2013.

He said proposals by the Western Education and Library Board (WELB) would see the closure of the "fantastic" unit at Belmont House and its splitting-up into two classes at St Anne's Primary School in Derry, two in Ebrington and two in Ballykelly.

Mr Ramsey said the Woodlands unit catered for 40 primary-age children and was non-denominational.

He said parents had approached him with fears that speech and language provision could be based in a corridor.

"I share the concern of parents that it will be a watered down service," the Foyle MLA said.

Sinn Fein's Maeve McLaughlin said she wanted to pay tribute to teachers at the unit and parents.

However, she said the service was not about buildings but must be about the best service for the pupils.

Ross Hussey of the UUP said he would commend the board's proposals as they would extend the service and make it available to pupils over a wider area, and it fitted with the WELB policy of providing this type of education in mainstream schools.

He said his only concern was the question of accommodation and the need for dedicated speech and language therapy rooms.

Sinn Fein's Raymond McCartney said the important thing was the best interests of the children.

Mark Durkan of the SDLP backed the views of his party colleague, Mr Ramsey.

He called on the minister to reject the WELB plans.

Education Minister John O'Dowd said he was restricted in what he could say until the two-month statutory consultation period had elapsed.

He noted that there had been a divergence of views in the debate and said he would be visiting the Woodlands unit the following day.

Mr O'Dowd said whatever decision he took would be in the best educational interests of the children, and he would relay the decision as soon as possible after the close of the consultation process.

Due to technical difficulties, the video is without captions.

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