The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has agreed
to the following Report:
PUBLIC EXPENDITURE IN NORTHERN IRELAND:
SPECIAL NEEDS EDUCATION
1. This inquiry is the second in a series of public
expenditure enquiries planned for the remainder of the Parliament.
The first inquiry
examined the annual departmental Report. This, and subsequent
inquiries, will examine specific areas of public expenditure in
2. Since publication of the Committee's first public
expenditure report, the system of governing Northern Ireland has
been extensively reformed. The New Northern Ireland Assembly has
been elected and is set to assume responsibility for the administration
of the public expenditure of the Northern Ireland departments.
This Committee's role continues, however, as set out in the Belfast
it will, as at present, scrutinise the exercise of the responsibilities
of the Secretary of State, which include the making of payments
into the Northern Ireland Consolidated Fund.
The Committee will therefore retain a continuing interest in Northern
Ireland public expenditure.
3. The present inquiry examined, from a public expenditure
perspective, the adequacy of provision for Special Education Needs
in Northern Ireland and the efficiency of arrangements for providing
Special Needs education there. In doing so, we looked at the different
levels of special educational needs, the assessment procedures
used, the types of provision and funding arrangements.
4. There have been two substantial studies of aspects
of special education in Northern Ireland in the last year or so.
The Department of Education for Northern Ireland (DENI) commissioned
an extensive survey from the Special Needs Research Centre of
the University of Newcastle upon Tyne to look at current practice
in mainstream schools in Northern Ireland with regard to pupils
with special educational needs. It submitted its report to the
Department in February 1998 and it was published in August 1998.
In August 1998, the Comptroller and Auditor General for Northern
Ireland reported on Special Education in Northern Ireland.
We have drawn on both documents as appropriate in this Report.
5. Our enquiry took place against a background of
steadily increasing expenditure on Special Educational Needs in
Northern Ireland. In his report on Special Education in Northern
Ireland, the Comptroller and Auditor General for Northern Ireland
noted that there had been an increase of more than 23% over the
period 1992-93 to 1996-97 to a figure of £63.7 million.
Of this, around two thirds was spent on special schools. The level
of resources devoted to special education is expected to continue
to rise substantially in real terms over the period to 2001-2.
6. In the course of the enquiry, we took oral evidence
on two occasions from the five Education and Library Boards, who
are responsible for assessing whether a child has special educational
needs and making appropriate educational provision. We also took
oral evidence from the four Health and Social Services Boards,
who are responsible for providing support in respect of identified
medical and social needs
and from the Minister responsible, Mr John McFall MP. We also
received written evidence from a number of organisations.
We are most grateful to all those who gave evidence to us.
7. We also visited two special schools in Harberton
Park, Belfast to see their operations at first hand. These were
Glenveagh Special School and Harberton Special School. We would
like to thank the pupils and staff of both schools for receiving
8. We have been ably advised in the course of this
enquiry by Dr Rosemary Kilpatrick of the Graduate School of Education,
The Queen's University of Belfast. We are most grateful to her
for her guidance.
1 First Report, Session 1997-98 (HC 295): Northern
Ireland Public Expenditure: Current Plans and Priorities. Back
2 Cm 3883, p. 9 (Strand One, paragraph 33 (c)). Also published
in Cm. 4292, p. 19. Back
3 Section 58, Northern Ireland Act 1998. The Northern Ireland Assembly
will be responsible for payments out of the Fund. Back
4 Practice in Mainstream Schools for Children with Special Educational
Needs: Analytical Report (referred to in this report as "the
Dyson Report"). Published as DENI Research Report No. 11,
5 HC898 (1997-98). In this Report, the expression "Comptroller
and Auditor General" refers to the Comptroller and Auditor
General for Northern Ireland. Back
6 See HC898 (1997-98), p. 18 and Appendix 1. Back
7 Ev. p. 87. Back
8 Ev. p. 83. Back
9 For a list of those who submitted written evidence, see p. xxviii. Back