CSSC praises uniqueness of controlled special schools

Special educational needs (SEN) funding in Northern Ireland exceeded £250m last year, and both the number of children with SEN and associated costs continue to rise.

As highlighted in the Controlled Schools’ Support Council (CSSC) baseline assessment, published on Monday 18 September, the majority of pupils in Northern Ireland with (SEN) are educated in mainstream schools. 

In terms of numbers: 

  • Over 38,000 primary pupils are recorded as having SEN
  • 49% of these pupils attend controlled primary schools
  •  In the post-primary sector, over 30,000 pupils are recorded as having SEN
  •  A third of these pupils attend a controlled-post primary school
  • 30% of pupils attending non selective post-primary schools are recorded as having SEN, compared to 7% in controlled grammar schools

 For those pupils with more complex needs, there are 39 special schools in Northern Ireland, of which 95% are controlled.    

CSSC Director Raymond McFeeters, Principal Castle Tower in Ballymena, and acting Principal of Ardnashee based in Derry/Londonderry, commented, 

It is extremely rewarding to lead a school and see children with a range of SEN achieve their potential. 

Special schools are truly unique.  They provide a specialist curriculum to over 5,000 pupils, tailored to meet individual requirements.  Special schools are fully integrated in terms of community and social background.  

Special schools are co-educational for children and young people from ages three to 19, however the gender balance of pupils shows that there are a significantly higher number of male pupils in special schools.  Indeed, 70% of special school pupils are boys.

In contrast, there is a significantly higher number of female teachers in special schools, 81.5% compared to 18.5% male teachers.” 

It is my view that special schools have a fundamental role to play in educating pupils to prepare them for life after school.  

I am delighted at the investment in special education, with the building of the new Castle Tower premises and the other capital investments for special schools currently at the planning stage.