30 Jul 2004

The consultations were on proposed suspension and expulsion procedures in Northern Ireland schools and new legislation on Special Needs and Disability.

The Commissioner’s responses - prepared on his behalf by members of his Senior Management Team - to all consultations are guided by the duties he is required to fulfil under the legislation that created the post of a commissioner for children and young people and by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In his response to the proposed changes on suspension and expulsion procedures the Commissioner calls for the Department of Education in Northern Ireland to “develop totally inclusive schools/education so that no child, irrespective of his/her behaviour looses out of his/her education because of being excluded/expelled from school, when his/her behaviour is part of a medical condition”.

This response leads from complaints received by the Commissioner on children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) missing school because of suspensions.

The Commissioner stated in his response that UN Convention on the Rights of the Child guaranteed every child and young person education.

In line with the Commissioner’s commitment to involving children and young people in decisions that affect their lives he has called for children to have a stronger voice in running schools, including the creation of listening schools initiatives, peer support programmes and school councils.

Similarly in the Commissioner’s response to consultation on the Special Needs and Disability (Northern Ireland) Order 2004 he urges a creative solution to include the views of children with disabilities in having a say where and how they are being educated.

The Draft Order proposes that children with special needs and disabilities be educated, where possible, in ‘mainstream’ schools, in accordance with the wishes of the parent and providing efficient education for other children.

The Commissioner has also called for stronger action on ensuring schools and colleges make appropriate adaptations and make available aids to enable children with special needs and disabilities to receive education.

In the response he recommends that this action become a statutory obligation, with time limits for providing such adaptations and aids, and recourse to an appropriate tribunal system.

Such a tribunal should have enforcement powers and the power to monitor policies and practices.

Copies of responses made by the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People to consultations can be received by contacting the Commissioner’s office on 028 9031 1616 or e-mailinginfo@niccy.org.