Teachers call for 'reversal' of special needs decision

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Teachers in the Isle of Man are calling for the government to "reverse" its decision to overhaul the special needs provision in Manx schools.

Earlier this week, the island's education department announced an end to nurture groups in both the primary and secondary sector.

As a result, 11 teaching posts (nine full-time) will be axed.

Andrew Shipley from ATL union said: "We want the decision reversed. The service needs expanding, not contracting."

"It is a retrograde step and teachers feel that the skills they have developed over the years have just been thrown out of the window and dismissed.

"Why, when we already have an extremely successful and highly thought of system, does the department feel the need to change it?"

The specialist teachers affected by the changes run support groups, looking after children with less complex special needs in mainstream education.

A spokesman from the education department said the groups would be replaced by a "whole school approach to nurturing pupils".

'Extra nurturing'

The Isle of Man education department spends more than £8m a year on specialist nurture teaching, the majority of which goes on staffing costs.

Mr Shipley said: "These are students who are going through difficult patches or have underlying problems that need to be dealt with and my fear is that those problems will not get addressed in the normal classroom environment."

But the department claims pupils requiring extra help will still get it.

"We have been piloting different approaches to how we deliver support and have found a model that uses education support staff is very effective," said Director of Services for Children, Sally Brookes.

"Children needing extra nurturing would still have their learning planned by their class teacher and the support would come from skilled staff."

Teachers at risk of losing their jobs are currently being advised about redeployment possibilities.

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