A five-staged approach is used in identifying and addressing a child’s special needs in Northern Ireland. The first two stages are carried out by the child’s school and parents should be kept informed of the process. At stage 3 the school may request outside help, e.g. from an educational psychologist. Statutory assessment is the focus of stage 4 where a child will be considered for a full statement at Stage 5. See below for further details.
In school, the class teacher(s) notes any concerns about a child’s learning and takes appropriate action in consultation with the child’s parents. The special needs co-ordinator and principal should be informed of the teachers’ concerns.
If action taken at Stage 1 does not remedy the situation, the teacher in the school with responsibility for special needs becomes involved (SENCO). An Individual Education Plan (IEP) should be drawn up for the child and the child’s progress monitored regularly. The school moves on to Stage 3 if the child is not progressing.
Specialist help or advice from outside the school is requested e.g. educational psychologist and the IEP amended. Following further consultations, parents and the professionals involved may ask the Board to make a statutory assessment.
Northern Ireland schools are governed by five Education Boards. A child’s location determines the Board where they are educated. The Boards may have differing approaches although their general procedures remain the same.
The child will continue to be schooled in their existing school with the support received at Stage 3. The Statutory assessment is the focus of Stage 4 and involves the Board representatives, in co-operation with the child’s school, parents and any other appropriate agencies deciding if this is necessary, and if so will conduct the assessment. Statutory assessment will not always lead to a statement. The Board will request written advice on the child from the:
- Education Pyschologist
- Other specialists
Parents are also invited to make a submission.
Following the receipt of all the information the Board must decide whether to draw up a statement.
The issuing of a statement involves the Board either in making additional resources (eg. a classroom assistant) available to a mainstream school or indicating that a change of placement may be necessary for the child (eg. A special school).
DENI special educational needs website
If a child has an early diagnosis of a learning disability parents can seek advice of health professionals to statement their child prior to entry into a mainstream school. In this instance the paediatrician would replace the role of the schools in contacting the Boards.
“Lucas has a Stage 5 statement. He received this statement when he was 3 years old and has attended a special school from nursery age to present (age 8). Lucas has the opportunity to receive Speech and Language therapy, Occupational therapy and Physiotherapy within the school setting. If a child is to avail of these services it MUST be noted on their statement. Statements are reviewed annually and the procedures are managed by the child’s teacher. The process usually starts in March.” Rosie Bovaird (Mother of Lucas)