FURTHER MEMORANDUM FROM THE NORTH EASTERN
EDUCATION AND LIBRARY BOARD
Special Needs Education (replies to questions
found on pages 24-5)
1. (a) Funding for special schools is based
on the historical cost of running a special school of a particular
size for children with particular needs. Staffing accounts for
approximately 80 per cent of these costs and the level of staffing
was, in the past, set by the Department of Education for Northern
Ireland. This pupil teacher ratio has been maintained and the
Board has, when necessary, enhanced the number of teachers and
ancillary staff in order to meet the special educational needs
of the pupils.
(b) The majority of children who are identified
and require a statement are in the mainstream initially. They
have a notional amount of funding allocated to them under Local
Management of Schools (LMS). Where the statement identifies that
their needs can be met in a mainstream school, this funding is
increased to enable the special educational provision to be made.
This topping-up reflects the degree of the special educational
need but the cost of this does not exceed the unit cost for a
place in a special school or unit as this is in line with the
legislative requirement of efficient use of resources.
Problems arise with placements when parents
perceive their right to express a preference as a right to choose
the school placement but without taking into account the legal
requirement placed upon Boards to make economic use of resources.
This creates difficulties and may result in appeals. The question
then arises as to the cognisance the newly established Tribunal
system (in Northern Ireland) will take of this requirement. It
would appear from the number of tribunals ruling against the English
authorities that the views of parents take precedence over the
advice of the professionals.
2. The following criteria assist with the allocation
of funding to mainstream placements:
the individual needs of the pupil.
the efficient education of other
existing circumstances in the school
e.g., other pupils with statements and additional resources.
3. The effectiveness of different placements
for children with statements of special educational needs is evaluated
The Board has a duty to review, at least
annually, the statements of special educational needs and the
reports from these meetings are monitored to establish if the
pupil's special educational needs are being met. If a school indicates
there is a concern prior to the annual review, a Board officer
will attend the annual review meeting.
It is not unusual for parents when they
have concerns to contact the Special Education Branch. A Board
officer then investigates the concern and meets with the parent
to discuss the situation. This may take place in the school where
the child is placed so that the staff are fully involved.
School requests re-assessment
Information has been sent to schools which
advises the staff on the procedure to be followed when there is
concern regarding a pupil's special educational needs.
4. Up to the present time there has been no
requirement for schools to report on how the money allocated under
LMS for non-statemented pupils with special educational needs
has been spent. Information to date has been gathered informally
through the following channels.
Meetings between Board officers and
school Principals regarding the special educational needs of individual
Board of Governors minutes.
Board officers investigating requests
for additional resources.
However under the 1996 Education Order, the
school's annual report will have to include details regarding
the spending of this allocation in the delegated budget.
5. The Board's Special Education Policy includes
the following regarding the definitions of "special education
provision" and "special educational needs".
"The legislation defines special educational
needs as `a learning difficulty which calls for special educational
provision to be made'. `Learning difficulty' means that the child
has significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority
of children of his/her age, and/or has a disability which hinders
his or her use of everyday educational facilities (or, where the
child is below school age, would hinder such use if the child
were of school age). `Special educational provision' means educational
provision which is different from, or additional to, the provision
made generally for children of comparable age.
Special educational needs cannot be defined
in absolute terms. Some individual needs will be transient and
easily met by appropriate support within the normal learning environment
or by short-term, perhaps intensive, intervention. Other needs
will be complex and profound, requiring long-term, individualised
learning programmes. Many more will be somewhere between these
two extremes. For learners, this continuum of need must be met
by a continuum of provision that is a broad range of support,
resources and provision. This should vary from in-service training
and advice to classroom teachers who work with children on a day
to day basis through to special schools which offer intensive
support for, at present, approximately 1 per cent of the school
population. Whilst it is important to identify special needs and
strategies for responding to them, this must be done in a way
which recognises the strengths and positive achievements of each
6. The same principles are applied to each category
of special educational need.
7. The role of the Board is to meet the individual
needs of the individual pupil in a way that is particular to that
child. In doing this, the Board, in liaison with parents and professionals,
considers whether the child's needs can be met in the mainstream
school. As a result, the numbers of pupils being placed in mainstream
schools and units has increased from 11 per cent in 1995-96 to
17 per cent in 1997-98. Overall, 37 per cent of pupils with statements
of special educational needs are placed in mainstream or special
units attached to mainstream schools. Although there is a strong
lobby for integration, it must be noted that a significant number
of parents actively seek a special school placement.
8. Home tuition is the method by which education
otherwise than at school is currently provided in the North Eastern
Education and Library Board. However, there are plans to extend
and enhance this aspect of education, e.g., specially designed
courses with input from Further Education. Currently eight hours
per week of home tuition is provided for secondary age pupils
and five hours per week for primary age pupils. This provides
27 per cent of full time education. It should be noted that home
tuition is intensive one to one work which is unlike the classroom
situation. The Board endeavours to provide as wide a range of
general subjects but obviously practical subjects cannot be covered.
Where a pupil is undertaking GCSE or "A" levels, specialist
tutors are employed where possible and so a pupil can have more
than one tutor.
In a 12 month period, 229 pupils have been on
home tuition for a variety of reasons and for differing durations.
The main reasons are medical (46 per cent), pregnancies (31 per
cent) and emotional and behavioural difficulties (32 per cent)
with the remaining 3 per cent accounting for those moving into
the Board's area and for whom immediate school placement cannot
be made. The cost of running this service is £228,000.
9. I. NEELB & NHSS Strategy Group
II. Area Child Protection Committee
III. Children Order Training Group
IV. Area Children and Young Peoples Committeethe
core Strategic Group and appropriate sub-committees have education
representatives e.g., Disabilities
VI. Regional Review Group
In addition to the formal links through committees,
a significant number of Board officers from different service
areas meet regularly with representatives from Health and Social
Services e.g., Senior Clinical Medical Officers, Speech and Language
Therapy managers, Assistant Director of Children Services, and
Social Services representatives.
General relationships are good, but there will
always be difficulties when any authority asks another for services
which involve additional finance. This creates conflicting priorities.
Currently, service level agreements are being sought for nursing
support in schools for children with severe learning difficulties
and paramedical services for mainstream schools.
10. The following documents are agreed or in
An Inter-Agency Agreement between
Health and Education and Library Boards is in draft form and out
Protocol for Anaphylaxis between
NEELB & HomeFirst & Causeway Trusts.
Agreements with health professionals
concerning response times to requests for advice and structure
15 July 1998