SDLP Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey has called on the NI Ombudsman to investigate the basis for the education minister’s “unfair, unwarranted and destructive” plans to close the Woodlands Speech and Language Unit in Derry.
Mr Ramsey said: “For some time now I have been leading the opposition to the closure of the Woodlands Unit by John O’Dowd and yet, despite the numerous pieces of information, pleas and concerned calls from parents, the minister refuses to budge from his illogical position. As such, I have written to the Northern Ireland Ombudsman to outline the position of the Unit, the position of the minister and the predicament in which staff and parents find themselves.
“At the Assembly debate I secured recently, the minister and his colleagues outlined this was an issue of legislation, which they refused to change. However, I have since discovered the legislation being used to close Woodlands is actually breached by other instances of children without statements being educated on special school sites, and not a word from the Minister.
“This type of maladministration and inequality will not be tolerated. Despite being informed by experts and his own officials that this process has not been managed well - and constitutes a closure of the unit, not a reconfiguration as he has claimed - the minister and his colleagues have ploughed on. Even to this day, staff and parents do not know – nor even do some of the schools due to host new language classes – what resources, what physical space will be available for the children who need this service.
“I have called on the Ombudsman to investigate this matter urgently. It is obvious this is not being taken seriously by the Department and the minister, and it is much too important an issue for the minister to fudge.”