MEMORANDUM FROM THE NORTH EASTERN EDUCATION
AND LIBRARY BOARD
The Board has a statutory duty to identify,
assess and make provision for pupils with special educational
needs. The Education (NI) Order 1996 defines the terms "special
educational needs" and "special educational provision"
but these definitions require further clarification as they are
open to a variety of interpretation.
For Education and Library Boards, the new legislation
and the Code of Practice requires the following six new issues
to be taken into account when identifying and assessing special
It becomes a statutory right for
parents to express a preference as to the child's school.
There are new rights of appeal for
An independent Tribunal of three
people now handles appeals with the chair having a legal qualification.
Schools and Boards have to draw up
a special educational needs policy and keep it under review.
The statutory assessment procedure
will be subject to time limits.
There will be a five staged approach
to the assessment of, and provision for, pupils with special educational
needs. Stages one to three are school based, with close involvement
of the Board at stage three; at stage four, the Board considers
the need for a statutory assessment and carries it out if appropriate.
At stage five the Board considers the needs for a statement.
Points i to iv took effect on 1 January 1998
while points v and vi come into force on 1 September 1998. These
new features will place additional pressures on the financial
resources of the Board and schools. The Board welcomes the additional
resources being made available by DENI. However it notes that
most of the additional finance is earmarked for schools and did
not initially take into account the demands being placed on the
existing special educational needs provision and the increasing
work load of staff administering the statutory assessment procedure.
|Financial Year||Special Unit|
|Expenditure on Special Schools and Home Tuition|
1991-92 was the first year of the inclusion in Board's budget of financial provision for teachers' salaries.
Expenditure incurred in 1995-96 and subsequent financial year includes costs associated with the Psychology and Special Education Support Services. These costs had previously been charged to the Headquarters Administration.
EXPECTED FUTURE DEMAND FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION
One possible indicator of the future demand for special educational
needs provision is the number of requests being received for statutory
assessment. This increased noticeably from September 1995 to May
1997 (see table below) and may be attributed to a number of factors.
An increased number of psychologists leading to
a greater number of children being seen.
Raised awareness of parents.
Increasing demands from schools.
|Requests for statutory assessment|
|September 1995||19||September 1996||8|
|October 1995||6||October 1996||15|
|November 1995||9||November 1996||14|
|December 1995||20||December 1996||24|
|January 1996||3||January 1997||23|
|February 1996||16||February 1997||10|
|March 1996||18||March 1997||9|
|April 1996||22||April 1997||39|
|May 1996||11||May 1997
|The figures above show 36.29 per cent increase in the number of requests being received for statutory assessment.|
At 31 December 1996 there were in total 1,342 statements
in place and a year later (31 December 1997) the number had risen
to 1,512 i.e., 12.667 per cent increase. This figure has been
rounded up to 13 per cent and used for projections in relation
to provision requirements for the next three years. Currently
there are 320 cases at stage 4.
There are 613 children currently awaiting an initial psychological
assessment at stage 3. Ninety six of these have been requested
by parents. The waiting list is a result of the difficulties and
time delay in replacing educational psychologists, as well as
the existing staff having a full case load.
REPRESENTATIONS ON THE NEED FOR FACILITIES
Over the past four years there has been on-going communications
between schools and the Board. The communication takes the form
of phone calls, meetings and letters.
One issue which is a major concern for Principals of special
schools in particular is the lack of nursing support for the carrying
out of medical procedures e.g. tube feeding, catheterisation.
This is a problem which will become more widespread as an increasing
number of children with special educational needs which arise
from medical conditions are maintained in ordinary schools. Trade
unions are actively advising teachers and ancillary staff not
to take on duties in this regard and so there could be discrimination
against children with conditions which require medical intervention
if school staff follow union advice.
The introduction of the new legislation governing Annual
Reviews and Transition Plans has resulted in requests from Principals
for substitute cover so that teachers can be released to attend
meetings. Also the additional paperwork has led to comments being
received from Principals regarding the need for larger and better
equipped offices as well as increased clerical support.
At a meeting of the Association of Principals of Special
Schools, one Principal commented that it would be impossible to
run the school without the additional money in the Gift Fund.
Following inspections of schools, the Board receives comments
from Boards of Governors regarding the lack of accommodation for
specialist subjects and the inadequate size of some of the general
classrooms. Such situations are investigated and generally the
outcome is an addition to the lists for major or minor works.
The concern expressed by the Principals with regard to the
provision of nursing support for carrying out medical procedures
has been conveyed to the Department of Education for Northern
Ireland via letter, face-to-face meetings and telephone calls.
The issue is to be addressed by the Regional Review Group which
was constituted this year by DENI and the Department of Health.
However the Education and Library Boards have concerns that it
is not a high priority for the Health Boards and may continue
to cause real practical problems in schools, particularly special
schools for children with severe learning difficulties.
The North Eastern Education and Library Board regularly makes
the Department of Education for Northern Ireland aware of the
pressures on the Board's budget, particularly the Special Education
budget which is demand determined. For example, a bid was submitted
with respect to the implementation of the Code of Practice for
the identification and assessment of special educational needs.
This year, a letter was written outlining the particular provision
problems being encountered and a bid made in relation to meeting
the needs of children identified as having special educational
The designated officers for special education from the five
Education and Library Boards meet regularly to discuss strategic
issues and a representative from the DENI is invited. This is
a useful forum for making representations to the Department on
The Board has within its top priorities for new starts a
special school and is actively involved in advancing other projects
in the special education sector.
ADEQUACY OF SPECIAL EDUCATION PROVISION
In the North Eastern Education and Library Board there is
a shortfall in provision for 210 pupils who already have statements
or whose statements will be ready to draft by April 1998.
There is a shortfall of 63 places within the special schools
and 58 places short in primary and secondary units for pupils
with moderate learning difficulties.
In addition a lack of provision has been identified in the
emotional/behavioural difficulties 40
assistance in mainstream 11
as yet unidentified problems but being assessed 53
The problems in relation to special educational needs provision
which are currently apparent within the Board, and the government's
stated preference for inclusive education, are reflected in the
three year plan below which indicates the minimum level of increased
funding required to meet the needs of pupils with statements.
It is based on the recent increase of 13 per cent continuing.
The plan proposes a small number of new units but the emphasis
is on resources/finance being devolved to schools with the pupil's
statement of special educational needs and the establishment of
local outreach support from special schools. In theory, this should
ease the pressure on units and special schools as well as enabling
schools to develop expertise which should then lead to fewer numbers
coming through to stage 4 (i.e., formal assessment). However the
unknown element of parental choice is always present, as well
as the possibility of the Board being taken to the Special Educational
|Ballykeel KS 2||1 teacher and 1 classroom assistant||12 places||37,500|
|Harpurs Hill KS 2||1 teacher and 1 classroom assistant||12 places||37,500|
|Outcome difficult to predict||£5,000 per pupil||53||265,000|
|Hearing Impaired||FM systems||14||14,000|
|Assistance for physical and medical conditions||£8,000 for classroom assistant||11||88,000|
|Speech and language impairment||£5,000||8||40,000|
|EBD||£5,000 per pupil||10||50,000|
|Learning difficulties Coleraine/Ballymoney area||£5,000 per pupil||26||130,000|
|Total Year 1||662,000|
|It is anticipated that the number of requests for formal assessment will continue to escalate in the short term and this is reflected in the figures for Year 2 (i.e., approximately 13 per cent increase maintained).|
|Ballykeel KS 1||1 teacher and 1 classroom assistant||12 places||38,625|
|SL1 unit or outreach in north||1 teacher and 1 classroom assistant||10 places||38,625|
|Outcome difficult to predict||£5,150 per pupil||50||257,500|
|Hearing Impaired||FM systems||10||10,000|
|Assistance for physical and medical conditions||£8,240 for assistance||10||82,400|
|Autism||£5,150 per pupil||10||51,500|
|ADD/EBD||£5,150 per pupil||20||103,000|
|Learning difficulties||£5,150 per pupil||20||103,000|
|Total Year 2||684,650|
|The introduction of clearly defined criteria alongside the implementation of the school-based stages of the Code or Practice may slow down further increases.|
|SLD additional class||1 teacher and 1 classroom assistant||8 places||40,000|
|SL1 unit in west||1 teacher and 1 classroom assistant||12 places||40,000|
|Outcome difficult to predict||£5,300 per pupil||40||212,160|
|Hearing Impaired||FM systems||10||10,000|
|Assistance for physical and medical conditions||£8,487 for assistance||10||84,870|
|Autism||£5,304 per pupil||10||53,040|
|EBD||£5,304 per pupil||15||79,560|
|Learning difficulties||£5,304 per pupil||15||79,560|
|Furthermore there is difficulty recruiting educational psychologists because of the training arrangements and there is a lack of recognised training courses for teachers in the area of special needs.|
EFFECT OF CHILDREN ORDER AND CODE OF PRACTICE ON SPECIAL
A clear distinction needs to be drawn between children defined
as "in need" under the Children Order and children with
"special educational needs" as defined under the Education
(NI) Order 1996. While many, if not all, children with special
educational needs are likely also to fall within the Children
Order definition of "in need" (if not through disability,
then through their need for services), it will be important to
recognise that the two definitions are serving different purposes
and have different implications.
Given the wider scope of the "in need" category,
many children may be entitled to services as children "in
need" under the Children Order, even though they are not
defined as having special educational needs under the Education
(NI) Order 1996. The services to which they are entitled are not
the same. Special educational needs are linked to educational
needs specifically, whereas "in need" is intended to
lead to a broader range of support services, to enable families
facing troubles of different kinds to look after and care for
children themselves. However, services for children with special
educational needs clearly need, under the Children Order, to be
co-ordinated effectively by collaboration between Education and
Library Boards and Health and Social Services.
Article 17 identifies those children who by this Order are
deemed to be in need and makes reference to children whose development
is impaired and to the child who is disabled. Article 18 requires
services to be provided to safeguard and promote the welfare of
all children who are in need.
Health and Social Services in conjunction with the Education
and Library Boards identified various categories of children who
could be termed "in need" and for whom education could
be justifiably required to make provision e.g., excluded children.
The number of suspension/expulsions has increased dramatically
in recent years and the Board has a duty to make alternative provision
for children who are excluded for other than very short periods.
(This correlates to stage 4 in the Code of Practice.) The Minister
of Education has recently recognised this in the launch of the
School Improvement Programme.
The Home Tuition figures for September 1997-March 1998 show
a 56 per cent increase on the same period for the previous year.
Parents are becoming more aware of the rights of their children
to be suitably educated. However there is a need to have parenting
skills programmes as more parents are reporting that their children
are out of control. Health and Social Services do not feel adequately
resourced to meet this need.
The 1996 legislation will have a significant impact on the
current situation which is illustrated by the Audit Commission's
statistics for England and Wales. These show that 102 LEAs (88
per cent) have recorded an increase in the number of the statements
maintained over the two year period 1994-96. Eighty-two LEAs (71
per cent) saw a growth of over 10 per cent in the number of statements,
with Enfield reporting a 125 per cent rise over the two years.
Only 14 LEAs (12 per cent) recorded a decrease in the number of
|Percentage of pupils with statements in England, Wales
and Northern Ireland|
|St Helens|| ||6.3|| |
|Doncaster|| ||5.5|| |
|Wigan|| ||4.7|| |
|Greenwich|| ||4.7|| |
|Cornwall|| ||4.7|| |
|Lambeth|| ||2.1|| |
|Mid Glamorgan|| ||2.1|| |
|Sandwell|| ||2.0|| |
|Oldham|| ||1.5|| |
|Nottinghamshire|| ||1.3|| |
In the North Eastern Education and Library Board area, the
number of requests for statutory assessment has begun to rise
and this, combined with the extended format of the statement,
transition plans, time limits, new rights of appeal for parents,
and the changes regarding the naming of the school in part 4 of
the statement, will increase the workload for staff of the Special
Education Branch. With the current level of staffing, the Branch
is having difficulty meeting the increasing demands and additional
resources would need to be allocated to Special Education.
|Additional staffing requirement|
In a small, but steadily increasing, number of cases the
legislation and Code of Practice are being referred to by parents
and particularly the right to express a preference regarding the
school named in the statement. Unfortunately parents are not reading
this as it is written but quoting it as their right to choose
the school their child should attend. They appear to be unaware
and uninterested in the totality of the legislation particularly
Article 8(2). This states that:
"Where a child who has special educational needs is being
educated in ordinary school, those concerned with making educational
provision for the child shall secure, so far as is reasonable
practicable and is compatible with
the child receiving the special educational provision which
his learning difficulty calls for,
the provision of efficient education for the children with
whom he will be educated, and the efficient use of resources,
that the child engages in the activities of the school together
with children who do not have special educational needs."
Parents are only concerned with "getting the best"
for their child which is understandable but often is not in keeping
with "the efficient use of resources".
23 March 1998