Ombudsman challenged to look at Woodlands proposals

NI Ombudsman Tom Frawley. (2904MM31)
NI Ombudsman Tom Frawley. (2904MM31)

Foyle SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey has called on the NI Ombudsman to investigate the proposed closure of the Woodlands Speech and Language Unit in Derry.

Mr Ramsey has written to the Ombudsman, Tom Frawley, over the handling of the closure of the unit and arrangements for replacement services.

It was announced in 2012 unit at Woodlands is to close and will be replaced by three new specialist units within existing schools throughout the north west to bring it into line with Western Education and Library Board guidelines.

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,” he said.

The SDLP MLA also said clarity is needed over the future of language provision in Derry.

“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,” he said.