Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence



Special Education (centrally funded)10,769
Delegated to schools (LMS formula) Special Needs2,063
    Social Deprivation2,853
Excepted items (primary and secondary)N/A
Special Education (centrally funded)10,215
Delegated to schools (LMS formula) Special Needs2,033
    Social Deprivation2,832
Excepted items (primary and secondary)2,838
Special Education (centrally funded)9,191
Delegated to schools (LMS formula) Special Needs1,986
    Social Deprivation2,716
Excepted items (primary and secondary)2,102
Special Education (centrally funded)7,759
Delegated to schools (LMS formula) Special Needs1,936
    Social Deprivation2,641
Excepted items (primary and secondary)1,809
Special Education (centrally funded)7,404
Delegated to schools (LMS formula) Special Needs1,858
    Social Deprivation2,432
Excepted items (primary and secondary)1,478
Special Education (centrally funded)6,828
Delegated to schools (LMS formula) Special Needs1,784
    Social Deprivation2,175
Excepted items (primary and secondary)1,202
Special Education (centrally funded)6,026
Delegated to schools (LMS formula) Special Needs1,556
    Social Deprivation1,744
Excepted items (primary and secondary)N/A


    (i)  The Board is required to maintain records for seven years only. Information is not available prior to the 1991-92 financial year.

    (ii)  Special Education includes Special Schools, Education Otherwise Than At School, Fees, Educational Psychology, Special Education Administration, Educational Psychology Administration, Miscellaneous Education.

    (iii)  Special Needs funding is delegated to schools on the basis of the number of children who qualify using screening tests.

    (iv)  Social Deprivation funding is delegated to schools based on Targeting Social Needs factors.

    (v)  Excepted items include classroom and supervisory assistance for children with statements in mainstream schools, Special Units attached to primary and secondary schools, and the Peripatetic Remedial Service, which provides support to small primary schools in literacy and numeracy.


  2.1 Present demand has been collated in terms of the number of children with statements of special educational needs and the number of children receiving support from Outreach Services.

  2.2 At 31 October 1997 there were 2,422 pupils with statements of special educational needs enrolled at schools in the South Eastern Education and Library Board area. This included 154 "extra-district" children (i.e. children resident in other Board areas).

Type of need/provisionNumber of pupils
Severe learning difficulties431
Moderate learning difficulties667
Moderate learning difficulties (Primary Units)236
Moderate learning difficulties (Secondary Units)169
Partially Hearing Units25
Speech and Language Units51
Diagnostic Units51
Emotional and behaviour difficulties50
Mainstream Primary Schools325
Mainstream Secondary Schools392
Grammar Schools25

  2.3 A further 267 pupils were receiving provision elsewhere than in the South Eastern Education and Library Board.

Grant-aided schools elsewhere in Northern Ireland251
Other provision in Northern Ireland4
Provision in England12

  2.4 A range of outreach services exist to support children who have special educational needs. Many of these children receive support at Stage 3 of the Code of Practice, i.e., without statements of special educational needs.

Type of Outreach SupportNumber
of children
Learning support38
Speech and language76
Pervasive developmental disorder67
Emotional and behaviour difficulties (primary)63
Emotional and behaviour difficulties (secondary)147
Peripatetic remedial188
Specific learning difficulties122
Sensory impaired 


  3.1 It is difficult to estimate with any degree of certainty future demands for special educational provision, given the new legislation which affords parents the right to express a preference for the kind of educational establishment that their child should attend. The Board envisages that there will be a growing demand for children with statements of special educational needs to be placed in mainstream schools rather than specialist provision. This will have major implications for the training and development of teachers and will necessitate additional resources being made available to mainstream schools to ensure that appropriate support mechanisms are in place to address the needs of children.

  3.2 The Board is conscious of the increasing number of children with severe learning difficulties often coupled with profound and multiple medical and physical problems. There is extreme pressure for places in schools with the specialist facilities required to meet the complex needs of these children. The Board has also identified a need for full-time nursing support in these schools. The Board is working actively with the Eastern Health and Social Services Board and Health and Social Services Trusts to address this issue.

  3.3 Future demand for special education provision is estimated on the basis of analyses of information obtained through:

    —  informal referrals made by schools/Senior Clinical Medical Officers and Consultant Paediatricians to the Educational Psychology Service;

    —  referrals for statutory assessment;

    —  discussions with Senior Clinical Medical Officers/Consultant Paediatricians in the Health and Social Services Trusts;

    —  regular meetings with Principals;

    —  extrapolation from current information and projection into the future.

  3.4 As a result of these analyses the Board has projected an increasing demand for the undernoted specialist services:

    —  Speech and Language (long-term provision);

    —  Moderate Learning Difficulties (Units for primary-age children);

    —  Severe Learning Difficulties;

    —  Emotional and Behaviour Difficulties;

    —  Specific Learning Difficulties (secondary-age pupils).


  4.1 The Board meets regularly with Principals of schools to discuss a wide range of issues including special educational needs. Following such consultation, the Board annually, as part of its Public Expenditure Survey bid to the Department of Education, takes account of representations made regarding special educational needs provision.

  4.2 The Board is currently working with the Department of Education to agree a schedule of accommodation for a new school to replace Clifton Special School in Bangor which caters for children with severe learning difficulties. Work is also underway to identify a suitable site for replacement accommodation for Tor Bank School, Dundonald. Both schools occupy premises which are totally inadequate to meet the complex needs of children with severe learning difficulties and profound and multiple disabilities.

  4.3 The Board would also wish to work in partnership with the Belfast Education and Library Board to address the need for provision for children with severe learning difficulties in the South Belfast fringe areas.


  5.1 Based on current projections, it is estimated that the following additional places will be required for the 1998-99 academic year:

    —  40 places in units for primary-age children with moderate learning difficulties;

    —  30 places in schools for children with severe learning difficulties;

    —  35 places in speech and language units (including long-term provision);

    —  10-15 places for primary-age children with emotional and behaviour difficulties.

  5.2 The Board would also wish to emphasise the importance of Higher Education Institutes ensuring that student teachers develop the skills and strategies necessary to identify and address the needs in the classroom of children with a wide range of special educational needs. The Board is concerned at the lack of specialist courses in Northern Ireland to prepare teachers to meet the needs of children with severe or profound and multiple learning difficulties.


  6.1 The Board is still at the stage of assessing, in co-operation with other statutory bodies, the projected impact of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 on the need for special educational provision. It is clear at this point that a number of issues deriving from the Order will require the Board to develop services.

  6.2 Children's Services Plans

  The Board will be required to co-operate with Health and Social Services to plan services to support and provide for vulnerable children. In relation to Special Educational Needs provision, this will mean children with a disability and will require the involvement of the Board's Educational Welfare Service, Educational Psychology Service and Special Education Administration in assessing and making provision in flexible ways for such children.

  The Board is working actively with other statutory agencies to develop an appropriate range of services.

  6.3 Juvenile Justice/Secure Provision for Children in Care

  It is proposed that the Board should take responsibility for the education of children in Northern Ireland Office-managed settings, including children in secure Health and Social Services care accommodation. This is an entirely new development. If the proposals are implemented, substantial additional capital resources will be required to ensure that current accommodation in Northern Ireland Office-managed settings is of a standard which is appropriate to enable delivery of the Northern Ireland Curriculum. Furthermore, consideration will need to be given to the re-training of existing staff to ensure that they are equipped to deliver the Northern Ireland Curriculum.

  It is also the case that determinate sentencing arrangements, to be introduced in September 1998 under Juvenile Justice legislation, will mean that the Board will have to attempt to provide for children who in the past would have been accommodated in Training Schools. This will mean a considerable expansion in:

    —  support arrangements for schools (particularly secondary schools);

    —  arrangements for education otherwise than at school;

    —  liaison work undertaken by Education Welfare Officers and Educational Psychologists.

  6.4 Arrangements for Children with Severe Learning Difficulties who present acute challenging behaviour

  The Board is aware of a number of children with severe learning difficulties whose behaviour difficulties are so acute that they have to be accommodated as in-patients in Muckamore Abbey Hospital for a period of time. This facility will no longer be available after 2002 and the Board is consulting with the Eastern Health and Social Services Board to identify alternative services. In terms of educational provision this is likely to mean the development within the Board's schools of additional support units with consequent capital and recurrent costs. There will also be a need to develop within Northern Ireland, in association with other Education and Library Boards and Health and Social Services Boards, specialist residential facilities for the small number of children for whom school-based and community-based support services are insufficient.

  6.5 The Board received an additional allocation of £116,000 in the 1996-97 financial year for the implementation of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order. A further £185,000 was made available in the 1997-98 financial year. The additional finance was used to support the following initiatives:

    —  awareness training on the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995;

    —  appointment of five additional Educational Welfare Officers to support schools;

    —  provision of "education otherwise than at school", e.g., on foot of Education Supervision Orders, or as a result of expulsions, severe behaviour difficulties, etc.;

    —  specialist training for teachers, Education Welfare Service staff and other Board officers on issues such as child protection, anti-bullying, groupwork, counselling, report writing for court purposes, etc.;

    —  the release of teachers to participate in case conferences with other agencies about individual children at risk;


  7.1 The Board has prepared a Special Educational Needs Policy in response to, and as required by, the Education (Northern Ireland) Order 1996. During November 1997 the Board carried out a major consultation exercise on its Special Educational Needs Policy with Principals, Boards of Governors, other Education and Library Boards, Health and Social Services Boards and Trusts, other statutory agencies, teacher associations and voluntary organisations.

  7.2 The views obtained indicated broad support for the key principles of the Code of Practice as mirrored in the Board's policy. Major concern was expressed, however, regarding the additional administrative workloads imposed by the Code and the lack of resources to ensure effective implementation.

  7.3 The Board appreciates that the Department of Education has identified some additional finance during 1998-99 to assist with the implementation of the Code, and that further funding will be made available over the next two financial years. However the Board believes that the sums identified are totally inadequate to meet the additional workloads imposed on schools and on the Board.

  7.4 In September 1996 the Board advised the Department that a total of £49 million would be required over a four-year period to ensure the effective implementation of the requirements of the Code. Details are provided below.

Training costs1328,265391,973407,832419,017
School support2011,980,16216,188,68816,962,300
Administrative support (HQ)30489,169541,580592,822
Purchase of specialist services40260,000260,000260,000
Capital pressures5054,0002,0001,000
1 Includes: Principals, SENCOs, teachers, Boards of Governors, support materials.
2 Includes: additional time for Principals, teachers and secretarial staff; additional responsibility points for SENCOs; additional equipment; additional teaching and non-teaching staff.
3 Includes: additional educational psychologists, administrative staff, Curriculum Advisory and Support Service staff.
4 Includes: specialist placements for children/speech therapy, etc.
5 Includes: new IT system.

  7.5 The Board is also concerned at its inability to provide adequate wheelchair access to mainstream schools. There is only one mainstream secondary school in the Board's area which has adequate wheelchair access throughout the school. No controlled secondary schools have appropriate wheelchair access.

  Substantial additional capital resources would be required in order to address this issue.

  7.6 The Board is also concerned that the Code is being introduced in Northern Ireland at a time when the Department of Education and Employment has published a Green Paper (Excellence for All Children Meeting Special Educational Needs) which suggest changes to the operation of the Code of Practice in England and Wales. While the Board understands that there are no plans at this time to extend the provisions suggested in the Green Paper to Northern Ireland, nevertheless it believes that it may be appropriate to postpone implementation of further aspects of the Code in Northern Ireland pending the outcome of the consultation exercise on the Green Paper.


  8.1 Given that the Education (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 was only implemented in September 1997, it is too early as yet to make any definitive statement with regard to its effect in relation to parents' rights to request a statutory assessment. However, the Board fully supports the concept of "parents as partners" in the education of their children. It acknowledges the right of parents to request a statutory assessment of their child's special educational needs and the right of parents to express a preference for the school that their child should attend.

  8.2 Details of the number of referrals for statutory assessment made during the previous two academic years are shown below.

September 1996-August 1997
Referred byNumber
Senior Clinical Medical Officers175
Education Psychologists43

September 1995-August 1996
Referred byNumber
Senior Clinical Medical Officers167
Education Psychologists53

  8.3 The Board has developed and published referral criteria so that all those involved in making referrals for statutory assessment are aware of the basis on which decisions are made.


  9.1 The Board receives referrals for assessment in relation to children who may have special educational needs at two stages of the current referral process:

    —  Stage 2 Referrals (Stage 3 under the Code of Practice) are made to the Educational Psychology Service by schools, Senior Clinical Medical Officers and other professionals who are seeking guidance on making appropriate provision for children. These referrals relate to children from 12-18 months of age up to 18 or 19 years and cover a range of special needs.

      At 31 December 1997 there were 434 such children still awaiting informal assessment by educational psychologists.

      Waiting time

      0-6 months    323

      7-12 months    101

      12+ months    10

    —  Stage 3 Referrals (Stage 4 under the Code of Practice) are requests for statutory assessment under the Education (Northern Ireland) Order 1996. At 31 December 1997 there were 112 such children still awaiting assessment by Educational Psychologists.

      Waiting time

      0-6 months    102

      7-12 months    7

      12+ months    3

  9.2 Delays in assessment are mainly due to:

    —  lack of personnel within the Educational Psychology Service;

    —  lack of personnel within the Health and Social Services Trusts;

    —  failure of parents to keep appointments for medical and psychological assessment;

    —  reluctance of parents to proceed with statutory assessment.

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