Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence



  1. The statutory assessment process results in the issue, by the Board, of a statement of special educational needs which the Board is obliged to maintain on the child.

   The Board is therefore required to provide the funding to meet the costs of the special educational provision detailed in the statement and which has been determined necessary for the child/young person in the course of their compulsory attendance at school. This applies whether it be in a special school or within mainstream education.

  2. The Board does not operate formula funding within the special education sector. The Board meets the costs of the provision as outlined in (1) above.

  3. The purpose of the Annual Review, as provided for in Article 19 of the Education and Libraries (NI) Order 1996, and as outlined in further detail in the Code of Practice for the identification and assessment of special educational needs, is to assess progress towards meeting the objectives and targets agreed following the making of the statement.

  The Annual Review also provides opportunity to review the special provision made for the child.

  The Annual Review process may involve contribution(s) from some or all of the following:

    —  the parents;

    —  the child's teacher;

    —  the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator;

    —  the Principal;

    —  a representative of the Board;

    —  a representative of the Health and Social Services Board.

  The Board has also initiated several pilot projects in relation to provision which the Board makes at Stage 3 of the Code (i.e., for non-statemented pupils), the purpose of which is to monitor and evaluate the quality of its provision for children with special educational needs.

  4. The Education and Libraries (NI) Order 1996 for the first time made it a statutory requirement for schools to publish a special educational needs policy.

  The 1996 Order also placed a requirement on the Board of Governors in the exercise of its functions and in accordance with Article 125 of the 1989 Order to describe, as part of the annual report to parents, what steps it has taken to secure the implementation of its policy in relation to the provision of education for children with special educational needs.

  The Board however would welcome a process whereby schools were made more accountable for the funds provided to them through the LMS Scheme to make provision for pupils with special educational needs and for targeting special needs.


  5. The Education (NI) Order 1996, in Article 3, Paragraph (4)(a) and (b), states that special educational provision means:

    (a)  in relation to a child who has attained the age of two years, educational provision which is additional to, or otherwise different from the educational provision made generally for children of this age in ordinary school and;

    (b)  in relation to a child under that age, educational provision of any kind.

  The Board uses these definitions and would interpret them in a literal manner. The Appendix to the Code of Practice for the Implementation and Provision of special educational needs outlines some of the difficulties a child/young person might present which would indicate that there was a special educational need. Some examples of these are:

    —  Specific learning difficulties (e.g. dyslexia).

    —  Emotional and behavioural difficulties.

    —  Physical disabilities.

    —  Sensory impairments.

  6. There are some circumstances in which definitions as defined within the Code of Practice may be applied differentially. The Board recognises that up to 20 per cent of children may have special educational needs at some time and that 20 per cent of the school population are likely to have such needs at any time. In only about two per cent of cases are those needs likely to be sufficiently severe as to require the Board to maintain a statement, and thus determine the form of special educational provision which should be made. Thus the definitions in the Code may be applied in light of:

    (a)  the severity of the child's difficulties;

    (b)  the response of the child to relevant purposeful measures taken by the school and others during Stages 1-3 of the Code;

    (c)  the outcome of review(s) of the child's education plan at Stage 3.

  In the case of a pupil with, for example, emotional and behavioural difficulties, the Board, in conjunction with the school, would attempt a number of strategies to deal with the problem and monitor the outcome of these before considering the need for a statutory assessment.

  The Board is committed to the philosophy that all the children in its area should be treated equitably. For that purpose the Board has agreed criteria for schools to apply in the identification and assessment of special educational needs (Annex 1).

  The Board has also, in liaison with the Health and Social Services Trusts, developed criteria for the identification and referral of children with speech and language difficulties who may require placement in a speech and language unit (Annex 2).


  7. The Board's published policy of special educational needs states as one of its key principles that wherever possible, children with special educational needs will be educated in mainstream schools, provided:

    —  their needs can be met in such placement;

    —  that it is compatible with the provision of efficient education for the children with whom the child will be educated; and

    —  that such provision is consistent with the efficient use of resources.

  This key principle is routinely applied to children and young people who have a statement of special educational needs.

  8. At present the Board has two categories of children who are educated other than at school—Home Tuition and Group Tuition.

  Home Tuition is provided for children with medical conditions where it is the view of a Designated Officer of the Health and Social Services Trust that the child is unfit to attend school for a period normally in excess of four weeks.

  Group Tuition is provided for children who have been suspended or expelled from school, are school refusers, or who have major social/emotional problems (Annex 3).

  The table below indicates the cost and number of children/young persons who have received education other than at school during the past academic year.

 Costs (March 1998) £Number of PupilsPercentage of full-time education provision
Home Tuition292,77411032
Group Tuition87,3463943

  The mathematical representation of the education the children in either of these two categories receives, as a percentage of full-time education, would not necessarily reflect accurately, or in a meaningful way, the benefit gained from this alternative provision.

  Pupils who receive home tuition normally receive a maximum of 8 hours per week. This is on a one-to-one basis.

  Young persons at Neighbourhood Group Tuition Centres normally have a maximum of 10 hours per week of teacher/pupil contact.

  This is often supplemented by participation in other projects e.g., work experience and/or social/personal development activities, organised by the Board on an inter-agency/partnership basis.


  9. The Board is committed to working in partnership with other statutory bodies on issues which will enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the service. A number of forums has been established to facilitate this approach between the Boards, Eastern Health and Social Services Board and our colleagues in the Health and Social Services Trusts at strategic level, operational level and on an individual basis. Some examples are listed below:


  Inter-Board Planning Group involving the senior management of Health Trusts and the South Eastern Education and Library Board.

Operational areas in which there are significant co-operation include:

    —  Training.

    —  Speech and language provision.

    —  Summer Activity Scheme for children with severe learning difficulties.

    —  Additional Support Unit—Parkview Special School for pupils with severe challenging behaviour.

    —  Lindsay School—a Province-wide facility at Forster Green Hospital for children and young persons with psychiatric and/or emotional/behaviour difficulties.

  The difficulties which arise within the partnership approach are mostly in relation to respective roles and responsibilities.

  As inter-agency working group has been established to identify and address these issues where possible.

  10. The Board has worked closely, and will continue to do so, with other statutory bodies to develop policies for the benefit of children with special educational needs. Some examples are as follows:

    —  Inter-Agency Agreement between Health and Social Services Boards and Education and Library Boards for the provision of Health and Social Services to Children in School in Special Educational Needs.

    —  Child protection policies and procedures.

    —  Speech and language provision (Annex 2).

    —  Joint Protocol on drug abuse.

    —  Lindsay School at Forster Green Hospital for children and young persons with psychiatric and/or emotional/behaviour difficulties.

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