V. MEETING SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS
42. The special educational needs of a school age
child are met in one of three main ways:
- education in a special school
- education in a special unit attached to a mainstream
- education in a mainstream school.
43. The preferred option is education in a mainstream
school, and all children with special educational needs but who
are not statemented are normally so educated. There is a statutory
presumption in favour of a mainstream placement for statemented
particularly those with mild sensory, physical or educational
provided that the placement is appropriate to the child's needs,
compatible with the interests of other children already in the
school, and represents an efficient use of the resources of the
44. Meeting special needs requirements in mainstream
schools is not without difficulty, in that additional burdens
may be imposed on those schools, both in educational and resource
terms. In the case of statemented children, additional equipment,
sensory aid and classroom staff are provided as specified in the
In the case of non-statemented children, Targeting Social Need
(TSN) money provides, through the LMS funding formulae, a mechanism
for targeting additional funds on schools facing the greatest
problems of social and economic disadvantage, allocated on the
basis of proxy formulae and not specific needs assessment.
Attempts are being made by the Government to improve the targeting
of TSN funds more accurately on schools with the greatest number
of needy pupils.
45. The five ELBs have different methodologies for
funding special needs in mainstream schools.
However, it seems as if it is not at present possible to identify
funds which are provided through allocations to mainstream schools
for the purpose of meeting special educational needs, or resources
for the School Improvement Programme.
DENI's current thinking is that special educational needs for
non-statemented pupils are best addressed by a formula which combines
social need allocations based on free school meals and educational
need allocations based on assessment outcomes,
but full details have not yet been determined.
46. Our predecessors reported
in February 1997 on underachievement in Northern Ireland secondary
schools and reached a number of conclusions about school funding
and social disadvantage, and TSN funding in particular.
In its response
in July 1997, the Government reported that it had received a consultants'
report on TSN methodology and, in particular, dealing with two
separate, but inter-related, strands of the policy - social deprivation
and special educational need. The Government agreed that more
should be done to monitor how targeted resources are used and
to evaluate their impact on pupils with social and educational
needs. We recommend that the Government take the opportunity
of its response to this Report to state what progress it has made
in this area.
47. The Comptroller and Auditor General recommended
that schools should account separately for the expenditure of
that part of their delegated budget intended for special educational
needs. Given that schools are now required to state in their
annual reports their policy with regard to provision for special
educational needs, we believe they should also be required to
publish details of how they have used that part of their delegated
budget intended to be spent in this area.
Quantification of expenditure would provide an objective basis
for future allocations, and remove the need for indirect formulae
such as that referred to above.
48. One area of particular concern to mainstream
schools relates to pupils with emotional or behavioural difficulties,
who may disrupt the education of other pupils at the school. The
ELBs drew attention to the shortage of provision for children
with emotional and behavioural difficulties.
DENI told us
of measures it proposed to take to tackle this through the Schools
Improvement Programme. We were also told that the Education and
Training Inspectorate was studying existing provision made by
mainstream schools. Its report will identify good practice and
provide a basis for further development.
49. As we have noted earlier, the number of statemented
children has grown by over 50% since 1990-91.
The evidence shows that boys are nearly twice as likely to be
statemented as girls.
The Comptroller and Auditor General's report demonstrated a marked
variance in the incidence of statements between the five ELBs,
ranging from 1.8% for the North Eastern Board to 3.8% for the
South Eastern Board.
In 1996, 6,560 children were referred for formal special educational
needs assessment, an increase of about 40% on the 1993 figure.
There is some evidence that the number of requests for statutory
assessment will rise further.
50. According to the Comptroller and Auditor General,
these statementing rates are, with the exception of the South
Eastern Board, significantly lower than for local authorities
in Great Britain with broadly comparable populations.
This is despite the relatively higher reported incidence of certain
medical conditions in Northern Ireland compared to other UK regions.
51. The rise in the overall level of statementing,
the difference between the sexes in statementing rates and the
apparent difference in statementing rates between Northern Ireland
and elsewhere in the United Kingdom suggest to us that some fundamental
questions need to be asked about the purpose of statementing and
the efficacy of the provision subsequently made. Mr Manning of
the factors apparently behind the greater propensity for boys
to be statemented, but added that there is no evidence to suggest
that, at age 11, girls who are not statemented are significantly
further behind and thus are not disadvantaged by not being statemented.
and Mr McCullough
drew attention to the possibility that the lower incidence of
statements in Northern Ireland might be influenced by the extent
of provision at Stage 3. This suggests to us that there is
a need to seek to establish, as far as possible, common criteria
on the purpose and aims of statementing.
We recommend that the Government commission appropriate research.
Without such benchmarks, it is not possible to assess with any
confidence the effectiveness of the considerable level of public
52. The Comptroller and Auditor General also expressed
concern about the variations in the levels of statementing, which
he considered might reflect a lack of consistent criteria for
identifying pupils with special educational needs, or different
interpretations of the definition of special educational needs.
We recommend that the Comptroller and Auditor General's recommendations
designed to improve consistency be carefully studied.
53. The majority of statemented children continue
to be educated in special schools,
DENI told us
that these special schools are now operating at or close to their
physical capacity, despite a growing tendency for parents to express
a preference for mainstream education for their children.
In addition to providing educationally appropriate provision for
children with the most acute needs, special schools provide valuable
outreach support to mainstream schools, to assist in areas such
as speech and language problems, dyslexia or behavioural difficulties.
54. Despite the lack of spare capacity in special
schools, and the expected growth in demand for their services,
capital projects for such schools fall into the lowest category
attracting priority for planning purposes.
The majority of these schemes are for replacement of existing
accommodation and so will have only a marginal effect on the overall
enrolment capacity of the sector. Other factors being equal, the
Department has endeavoured to include at least one special school
in each year's new starts programme. Over the period 1992-93 to
1996-97, capital expenditure on special schools has ranged between
5% and 9% of the overall capital expenditure on schools.
55. Although DENI maintains that the level of accommodation
and equipment provision in the majority of special schools and
special units is "satisfactory or better",
significant accommodation needs remain. Nearly one third of special
schools (15 out of 47) are described as having a high incidence
of small or temporary classrooms and a further nine schools are
regarded as having poor accommodation.
56. There would appear to be a case for extending
training for teachers in special schools. Evidence from the HSSBs
indicates that there are circumstances where it might be appropriate
to broaden the range of teachers' skills and experience. We
therefore recommend that DENI reviews the current scope and extent
of training for teachers in special schools and takes steps to
ensure that adequate funds are available to ELBs for in-service
training in this area. We also recommend that school inspections
specifically include an assessment of the current state of staff
SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS CO-ORDINATORS
57. The Code of Practice provides for the designation
of a teacher in all mainstream schools as SENCO, to be responsible
- the day-to-day operation of the school's SEN
- responding to requests for advice from other
- co-ordination of SEN provision, including, in
secondary schools, ensuring appropriate liaison with the various
teachers who will teach any given child with special educational
- maintaining an SEN register, with records on
pupils with special educational needs;
- liaison with parents of children with special
- establishing the SEN in-service training requirements
of the staff, and contributing as appropriate to their training;
- liaison with external agencies.
The SENCO therefore plays a central role in the assessment
and meeting of pupils' special educational needs.
58. Mrs McClenaghan, Chief Executive of the Southern
the training of SENCOs in her area. Mr Irwin, of the North Eastern
ELB, referred to SENCOs as "a key resource"
and pointed out
the need to ensure appropriate training also for both Principals
and Governors. Mr Manning, of DENI, stated
that one of the objectives of the Department was to encourage
ELBs in their SENCO training to ensure that the status and the
time allocated to SENCOs is commensurate with the difficulties
of the job.
59. It is clear to us that the success or otherwise
of a mainstream school's SEN policy will stand or fall on the
competence and commitment of the SENCO. It is therefore vital
that schools select their SENCO with particular care and ensure
that they receive appropriate training. The Dyson Report emphasised
the contribution to be made by in-service training in this respect.
We understand that there is likely to be pressure to extend the
duration of training for SENCOs. While we note Mr Manning's assurance
that the withdrawal of funding for award-bearing in-service courses
has not, as had been feared, depressed demand,
we hope that DENI will take steps to ensure that appropriate funding
arrangements are in place to ensure that lack of funding does
not discourage potential trainees. We welcome the ring-fenced
which DENI is providing for training, including SENCO training,
which is designed to have a significant impact on the quality
and status of SENCOs within schools. We believe that the introduction
of the Code of Practice means that teachers generally, and not
just SENCOs, will need greater training in special educational
needs, not least because of the likely increase in the number
of children with such needs placed in mainstream schools. We recommend
the continued provision of ring-fenced training resources in this
60. As Mr Jackie Fitzsimons, Chief Executive of the
South Eastern ELB, told us,
the role of the educational psychologist is a key one in the assessment
process, coming in at Stage 3. Mr O'Loane, Chairman of the Inter-Board
Special Educational Group of the ELBs, expressed similar views.
The introduction of the Code has increased the workload of educational
psychologists, but there are insufficient educational psychologists
in post and, according to Mr Fitzsimons, insufficient educational
psychologists being trained. Mr McFall estimated the shortage
at about 30 over the next three years.
This shortage is not unique to Northern Ireland.
61. The current annual level of training places in
Northern Ireland is six,
so, even with no allowance for retirements and wastage, there
is a significant shortfall in provision. The problem will also
be compounded by recommendations from the British Psychological
Society that the training programme be extended from one to three
years, starting in September 2001. We understand that Queen's
University has the capacity to increase significantly the number
of funded trainees it could accommodate on the course in each
of the next two years. This could alleviate, but not eliminate,
the current shortage.
62. We are pleased that Mr McFall saw the need
to remedy the current shortage of educational psychologists as
an urgent issue
and that he proposes to have discussions with both the University
and the ELBs. We recommend that these discussions include the
scope for increasing the teaching and training resources with
a view to seeking to eliminate the shortage in this key function
as soon as is practicable. He is also
inviting the ELBs to devise an action programme to include measures
which will both expand the post-graduate intakes and make training
arrangements more attractive to serving teachers.
63. We consider it important that the opportunity
to train as an educational psychologist should be available to
as wide a pool of applicants as possible. In particular, we consider
there is a good case for attracting teachers with a greater degree
of experience. Mr McFall cited to us the case of a teacher
who had made substantial financial sacrifices to train in this
We have seen suggestions that the present level of funding
of Temporary Employment Contracts
may be a deterrent to applicants, particularly more experienced
teachers. We understand that in Scotland there has recently been
a move to increase significantly the value of Temporary Employment
Contracts to address this problem there. We recommend that the
value of such contracts in Northern Ireland be reviewed.
64. Particular attention has been drawn to a shortage
of speech and language therapists in Northern Ireland. Speech
and language therapy is a key element in meeting special educational
needs. The shortage in Northern Ireland reflects a wider recruitment
and retention problem throughout the United Kingdom, but is complicated
by two factors. The first is that a significant number of graduates
take jobs in Great Britain, where their services are also in demand.
The second is that a number of students from the Republic of Ireland
train in Northern Ireland and return home to work following graduation.
65. We recommend that steps be taken to seek to
improve the recruitment and retention of speech and language therapists
in Northern Ireland. We note that the Department of Health and
Social Services is seeking to update the methodology for identifying
needs in terms of manpower planning in partnership with HSSBs
and Trusts. We look to the Secretary of State, in responding to
this Report, to indicate how it is intended to tackle the recruitment
and retention problems.
Relations between ELBs and HSSBs
66. Although the statutory responsibility for assessing
a child's special educational needs rests with the ELB, the assessment
itself is likely to require medical, psychological and social
services inputs. Some of these are necessarily provided by other
agencies. Likewise, non-education provision may be required, such
as speech and language therapy in certain circumstances.
The relationship between the ELBs and the appropriate HSSBs are
therefore a key element in both assessments and programmes to
meet the identified needs of a statemented child, and, in some
cases, non-statemented children.
67. The responsibilities of the HSSBs in respect
of children are, of course, far broader than simply in respect
of those with actual or potential special educational needs; such
children may constitute only some 10% of children with special
needs within the meaning of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order
The Eastern HSSB cited budget constraints as a reason for delays
in therapy assessments and treatments.
The Western HSSB commented that by far the majority of children
seen for selective medical examination in school are those with
special educational needs but without statements.
Each of the HSSBs has provided in its written submissions
detailed information on how it seeks to work with the appropriate
ELBs to assess and meet special educational needs.
68. In November 1998,
the five HSSBs and the four ELBs signed an Interagency Agreement
on the provision of education, health and social services to children
with special educational needs. The Agreement is to be reviewed
in 12 months. Its purpose is to lay down very broad principles
and the intention is to get down to specifics in the intervening
Mr Martin Bradley, Chief Nurse, Western HSSB, identified
a range of areas where progress might be made, including greater
standardisation of training and in the assessment and identification
69. HSSB representatives also described progress
being made towards greater use of multi-disciplinary assessments,
particularly given the interactions between obligations under
the Education Order and the Children Order.
However, HSSB witnesses were concerned that the Code should not
be seen as a panacea:
a number of factors, such as recruitment and retention problems
in certain fields and the need to avoid excessive medical work
in schools, needed to be taken into account.
70. On the question of conflict between the legal
obligation of ELBs to provide therapies included on a statement
of special educational needs and the capacity of HSSBs who are
the service providers, Dr Hannigan of the Northern HSSB agreed
that there was a potential conflict,
but maintained that the arrangements do work at present. However,
she added that: ".....if the code of practice is adhered
to and the ethos of inclusion and provision for these children
is made in mainstream schools, that may well change because the
demands on services, as we know, are under pressure at the moment
and this has been identified as an additional pressure which we
would find very hard to meet....".
71. Dr Hannigan also pointed out that ELBs have,
in the past, advocated the transfer to them of funding for speech
and language therapy in particular.
She conceded that there may be certain advantages to that from
the point of view of the ELB, but listed a number of potential
disadvantages seen from the child's perspective, including duplication
of effort with the work of the HSSB under the Children Order.
It might be possible for ELBs to purchase additional therapy from
other sources such as health and special services trusts, for
which Dr Hannigan pointed out there was a precedent in Scotland.
However, given the overall difficulties of recruitment and retention
of speech therapists, she considered that this approach would
not be without its own problems.
Mr McCulloch, of the Belfast ELB, had indicated that any such
transfer would involve ELBs taking on "something where there
was not sufficient funding available currently in the system".
AFASIC Northern Ireland, however, considered that ELBs should
be given additional money to purchase these services from HSSBs.
72. We welcome the conclusion of the Interagency
Agreement for the provision of education, health and social services
to children with special educational needs. We hope this will
provide a catalyst for improved service provision to children
with special needs. In their evidence to us, both ELBs and HSSBs
have described details of the ways in which they work together
to meet the needs of the child. Given the collective constraints
of both human and financial resources, we look to the Boards to
build on their experience when they review the operation of the
Agreement later this year.
73. We believe, though, that both HSSBs and ELBs
may need collectively to work together more closely in meeting
parental expectations for services. The evidence we have received
from organisations involved with parents of children with special
educational needs suggests that they perceive there to be a considerable
shortfall both in service provision and in co-ordination between
ELBs and HSSBs. Mr McCullough, of the Belfast ELB, pointed out
that some parents make representations that their children are
receiving inadequate therapy levels.
Dr Hannigan conceded that, if the health professionals did not
adequately provide therapy, it was the ELB, not the HSSB, that
would be the subject of proceedings before the SEN Tribunal.
As the Interagency Agreement states, the HSSBs and ELBs believe
that through collaborative work more effective use can be made
of the available resources and best long term effect can be gained
for children. We hope that they will pay full regard to parental
concerns in this respect, and seek to draw on the expertise of
organisations with particular interest in, and experience, of
assisting children with special educational needs.
63 A small number of children with special educational
needs are educated otherwise than at school, for example, at home
by peripatetic teachers. See also paragraph 29 above. Back
64 Ev. p. 84. See also Ev. p. 78. Back
65 Ev. p. 81. Back
66 See also Ev. p. 9. Back
67 Ev. p. 81. Back
68 Ev. p. 77-8. DENI has no information, though, as to whether any
correlation exists between the proportion of statemented children
in a school and the proportion of pupils entitled to free school
meals (Ev. p. 84). Back
69 HC898 (1997-98), Appendix 4. Back
70 Ev. p. 87. Back
71 Ev. p. 85. Back
72 Second Report from the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Session
1996-97, HC79. Back
73 HC79 (1996-97), paras. 62 to 82. Back
74 Cm. 3705. Back
75 The Code of Practice (para. 2.9) requires the annual report of
the Board of Governors of each grant-aided school to provide information
on 'SEN resource allocation over the year'. See also Q94. Back
76 Q16. See also Q89. Back
77 Ev. p. 82. Back
78 Ev. p. 78. Back
79 Ev. p. 86. See also Q85-86. Back
80 HC898 (1997-98) p. 26. Back
81 Ev. p. 81. Back
82 See, for example, Ev. p. 9. Back
83 HC898 (1997-98) p. 25-6. Back
84 Ev. p. 77. Back
85 Q86. Back
86 Q69. Back
87 Q73. Back
88 See also paragraph 34 above. Back
89 HC898 (1997-98), p. 26-28. Back
90 The number educated in special schools has risen from 3,800 in
1990-91 to 4,680 in 1996-97 (Ev. p. 78). Back
91 Ev. p. 78, 81. Back
92 Over the period 1990-91 to 1996-97, there has been an almost threefold
growth in the number of statemented children educated in mainstream
schools (Ev. p. 78). See also Q87. Back
93 Ev. p. 79. Back
94 Ev. p. 80. Back
95 Ev. p. 80. See also Q100. Back
96 Ev. p. 80. Back
97 Ev. p. 81. Back
98 For example, Q121, 134. Back
99 Para 2.12. Back
100 Q74. Back
101 Q76. Back
102 Q75. Back
103 Q113. Back
104 Q112. Back
105 Q113. Back
106 Q64. Back
107 Q77. Back
108 Q89. See also Q49, 77. Back
109 Q106. Back
110 Q89. Back
111 Q89. Back
112 Q106. Back
113 Q89. Back
114 Temporary Employment Contracts are a means of providing financial
support to students on courses such as these. Back
115 Q130. Back
116 Speech and language therapy may be regarded as either educational
or non-educational, depending upon the health or development history
of the child. See Code of Practice, para. 4.27. Back
117 Q119. See also Ev. p. 113. Back
118 Ev. p. 104. Back
119 Ev. p. 114. Back
120 Ev. p. 102 to 130. Back
121 Q120. Back
122 Q121. Back
123 Q123. Back
124 Q126-8. Back
125 Q132-5. Back
126 Q140. Back
127 Q140. Back
128 Q140. Back
129 Q26. Back
130 Appendix 12, p. 160. Back
131 Q26-7. Back
132 Q141-2. See also Q110. Back