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Specialist school steps up efforts to stay open


10/04/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: News Letter

Northern Ireland's only specialist school for children with cerebral palsy is continuing its campaign to search for cash to keep it afloat.

Buddy Bear School in Dungannon is asking members of the public to become a buddy of the school and to send an email to the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers to show public support for the facility.

Campaigners at the school have been asking all district councils across Northern Ireland to write to the First and Deputy First Ministers.

There is cross-party support for the school in the NI Assembly, following the recent debate, however no funding has yet been made available to keep the school running. Currently £20,000 is needed urgently by the summer otherwise the school will have to fold.

The school, the only one of its kind in Northern Ireland or the Republic, uses conductive education techniques developed at the Peto Institute in Hungary and imported to Northern Ireland in the 1980s.

Brendan McConville, chairman of Buddy Bear Trust said: "While most councils have sent letters of support to the Office of First and Deputy First Ministers more public support is needed for children with no voice. The child could be part of your own family circle or that of a friend or neighbour.

"We are inviting the public, the students, clubs, firms and various organisation to help us raise funds to keep the Buddy Bear School open while the ministers work out with officials how to implement the decision of the Assembly made on February 19 to support the school," he said.

He pointed out that theLord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Jim Rogers had in recent days signed the Pledge of Support Photograph taken in Dungannon to show solidarity of the citizens of Belfast with the campaign to save and to develop Buddy Bear School for some of the 900 children in Northern Ireland with cerebral palsy.

Mr McConville said MLAs who have already pledged support, known as White Knights, are to meet with Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness over the coming weeks to discuss the best way forward.

Campaigners are blaming some education boards for the financial crisis as they claim the boards have failed to highlight the school's existence to parents of children with cerebral palsy.

Mr McConville is urging the public to send an email to [email protected] in support for Buddy Bear and children with cerebral palsy.

Donations may be made to the Buddy Bear Trust, Ulster Bank, Dungannon.



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