Northern Ireland

Education Authority in 'meltdown', says Belfast principal

pencils Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ms Dawson said that she needs more support from the authority to meet the needs of vulnerable children

The Education Authority (EA) is in "meltdown," according to a Belfast primary school principal.

Diane Dawson of Braniel Primary has written to the EA's chief executive, Sara Long, to raise "serious concerns" about the authority.

She said she had a number of problems accessing help for pupils and staff.

The EA said it was "giving careful consideration to the matters raised in this letter and will respond as soon as a possible".

Braniel Primary is a large primary school in east Belfast with around 400 pupils.

'Complete meltdown'

In the letter from 30 September Ms Dawson said: "In my opinion, the Education Authority is in complete meltdown and I have never known such a crisis as this in my twelve years in post as a principal."

She set out a number of reasons why she believed that to be the case in her letter, which has been seen by BBC News NI.

Ms Dawson said she had been trying repeatedly to get appropriate support for two of her pupils with special educational needs (SEN) without success.

"I keep knocking doors but there is no-one there," she wrote.

"Please appoint someone directly to resolve the situations for the two vulnerable children mentioned above."

'Crying out for help'

She also attached a number of emails in the letter between her and the EA, expressing concerns about the help the school could give to a child with severe learning difficulties.

"I am not prepared to put this child through such a harrowing experience both for his health and safety and that of his peers," one of her emails to the EA read.

Image copyright PA

Ms Dawson also claimed that some parents were being told their children with SEN were being allocated specific classroom assistant help without the school being informed.

She also highlighted other administrative problems in her letter, saying that she could not register over 100 children in her school for free school meals for the first month of term due to changes to a computer system.

"Due to a change in how we receive files from the EA, including Free School Meal confirmation, I have not been able to access the vital information of which children in my school have been granted Free School Meals from 30 August 2019 until today!" her letter said.

She also said her staff had not received training in a number of other computer systems to help with things like collecting school dinner money.

"The context in which I am trying to meet the needs of my children, particularly my most vulnerable children, seems to be impossible," she concluded.

"I am now crying out, directly to you Ms Long, for help because I am at a loss as to where I can go."

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