Education officials have come in for criticism this week for what has been described as a ‘relaxed attitude’ to the future of speech and language services in the North West.
Earlier this year, a decision to close the Woodlands speech and language therapy services and have was made by Education Minister John O’Dowd.
‘Development proposals’ put forward by the Western Education and Library Board to close the Woodlands Unit included the relocation of two classes to Ebrington Primary School, a further two to St Anne’s Primary School and for the expansion of overall provision of speech and language provision by establishing two additional classes in Ballykelly.
SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey, who opposed the closure of the Woodlands Unit, has now hit out at what he perceives to be a ‘relaxed attitude’ towards the future of speech and language services in the North West.
His comments follow a critique of the plans by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT), who called the plans “a closure of the language unit and not a re-location, as the proposed provision will not replicate existing services for the children and will not provide similar
accommodation for the speech and language therapists.”
Referring to the plans to ‘expand’ services in Ballykelly, they said: “The RCSLT has not been informed of any additional SLT staffing proposals to service this expansion and we are therefore concerned that there is currently no commissioned provision or resources for these additional classes.”
Pat Ramsey said: “The Minister had nothing to tell me apart from the fact that staff have not even been met with yet and that discussions are just now being held on accommodation. Is the Minister expecting children with complex speech and language difficulties to be taught in broom cupboards and corridors?
“The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists warned that any dismantling of the Woodlands service would mean an effective closure of the services and they have unfortunately been proven correct. As if parents don’t have enough to worry about due to this closure, we now have the added anxiety of trying to see what patchwork service the Department in conjunction with the Board, come up with.
“It is totally unacceptable.”