Further Memorandum from
the Department of Education for Northern Ireland
NI AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL
FURTHER WRITTEN QUESTIONS FOR DENI
1. According to the DENI memorandum, the number
of children with statements is increasing. One of the reasons
given for this is that more children with profound and/or multiple
mental and physical handicaps are surviving to school age and
beyond. Additionally, in Northern Ireland there is a relatively
higher reported incidence of certain conditions (e.g., Down's
Syndrome and Spina Bifida). Given such factors, how can DENI justify
the continued use in Northern Ireland of the Warnock estimate
of 2 per cent of children requiring statements, which was calculated
in 1978 (and has always been open to debate)?
The Department accepts that this estimate is
now outdated. It was used in the Department's SEN Code of Practice
(paragraph 2.2)and also in the Code of Practice for England
and Walesto indicate broadly to schools that only a small
proportion of pupils are likely to have needs which would require
reference to an Education and Library Board for formal assessment.
It is not used by DENI for any administrative purposes. In particular,
it is not used to determine levels of funding for special education
or to set a quota for the number of statements which should be
in force at any one time.
2. The selection procedure which operates in Northern
Ireland would seem to mitigate against the inclusive culture promoted
by the Government. Could the Department provide the information
(i) the members of statemented pupils
in mainstream education in primary, secondary and grammar schools
by management type;
(ii) the number of pupils with statements
who entered the transfer tests and what grades these pupils got;
(iii) the correlation, if any, between
the proportion of statemented pupils in a school and the proportion
entitled to free schools meals;
(iv) the breakdown of children with statements
The information sought at (i) and (iv) is shown
in the Annex, page 86. Re: (ii), the placements of pupils with
statements are determined by the Education and Library Boards
and such pupils are not entered for the Transfer Procedure. Re:
(iii), no information is available as to whether any correlation
exists between the proportion of statemented pupils in a school
and the proportion of pupils entitled to free school meals.
3. Mainstream schools are reluctant to accept
children with special educational needs, especially those with
emotional and behavioural difficulties, because of the adverse
effect that these pupils may have on the school's image and its
position in the market place. What extra funding is provided to
a school to support a statemented child? How does the Department
plan to encourage mainstream schools to take statemented pupils?
Education and Library Boards provide directly
to a mainstream school any necessary additional educational resource
specified in a pupil's statement of special educational needs.
Responsibility for making any non-educational provision which
might also be so specified depends on the nature of the provision
(e.g., home to school transport is provided by the Education and
Library Board; para-medical therapies are provided by the responsible
Section 3 of the Department's initial memorandum
illustrated the recent increase in numbers of statemented children
placed in mainstream schools.
| ||Special schools||Special units||Mainstream|
| ||Number||Per cent||Number||Per cent||Number||Per cent|
The statutory presumption in favour of a mainstream placement
for statemented children will remain. The Department recognises,
however, the excellence of the highly specialised provision available
in special schools in Northern Ireland and the strength of parental
confidence and support which they enjoy. At the same time, it
wishes to improve further the choices available to parents and
will, in conjunction with Boards and schools, be seeking ways
to improve the quality of special educational needs provision
available in mainstream schools. This will include an examination
of confidence building measures in dealing with statemented children,
including developing outreach support, strengthening the role
of special schools as mainstream resource centres and improving
curricular and social links between sectors. In response to the
concerns from schools, the published school performance tables
include information on the number of statemented pupils.
4. In the light of the NIAO report and the identified lack
of completeness and consistency of the information DENI receives
from the Boards, what steps have been taken to clarify with the
Boards the information it requires and how this should be provided?
What plans does DENI have for a more thorough and meaningful analysis
of the information collated by them from the Boards?
The Education and Library Boards have been well aware of
the Department's requirements for statistical and financial information,
an account of which was included in DENI's supplementary memorandum
to the Committee dated 10 July 1998.
These requirements have required regular routine review, in consultation
with the Boards, in order to adapt to changing information needs.
With the implementation of the new SEN Code of Practice from September
1998, more detailed central monitoring of assessment activity
by Boards will be required, in which context the activity returns
referred to in paragraph 5.14 of the NI Audit Office report are
The Boards have recently established a Regional Special Education
Group to seek improvements in consistency of policy and practice,
including information gathering and monitoring. The Department
welcomes this as facilitating the production of more reliable
and consistent management information and will be liaising closely
with the Group.
5. In the Department's memorandum, Section 2 describes the
allocation of resources for pupils with special educational needs
to mainstream schools but without statements and refers to debate
and consultation on this topic. Would the Department elaborate
on this, particularly in relation to:
(i) the matching of funds to identified pupils with
special educational needs in mainstream schools; and
(ii) any plans to require the reporting by mainstream
schools of their actual expenditure on special educational needs.
6. The NIAO report highlights the fact that if a pupil transfers
from a mainstream to a special school during a school year, as
a result of a statement having been issued, the funding "attached"
to that pupil remains with the mainstream school. What action
does the Department intend to take to remedy this situation?
The number of pupils transferring from mainstream education
to a special school part way through the school year is small
and items of equipment (e.g., special learning aids) already allocated
to a statemented pupil would automatically transfer with the pupil.
The resources involved are therefore minimal, especially seen
in the context of the other factors that can change in the schools
7. What is the Department's view on the Local Management of
Special Schools? What plans does it have to introduce this in
Since April 1993, special schools have had partial delegation
of funding under Article 55 of the Education Reform (NI) Order
1989. This decision followed recommendations made by a DENI/Board
working group, which expressed strong reservations about the compatibility
of full LMSS with a number of essential characteristics of the
special school sector, and reported that consultation with special
schools had indicated no significant demand for full delegation.
The Department has no plans to introduce LMSS at present.
8. One of the major issues in schools in England recently has
been the national standards for SENCOs from the Teacher Training
Agency and the argument that there should be a formal qualification.
What is the Department's view on this issue from the Northern
The Department's view is that teachers should be encouraged
to undertake professional qualifications which would enhance their
experience and expertise, though at this early stage of the implementation
of the Code of Practice in Northern Ireland it is not considered
appropriate to require the possession of such a qualification.
A SENCO training module has already been made available to schools
to facilitate in-school training linked to the Computerised Local
Administration System for Schools (CLASS) system. All post-primary
schools have been trained in the use of the module and this will
be extended to the larger primary schools in this academic year.
9. In Northern Ireland, parents and pressure groups have expressed
concerns about both the statementing and tribunal process. Furthermore,
the experience in England has been that pressure groups have often
sought to use the clear expectations set out in the Code of Practice
to challenge existing practice in special education. How does
DENI intend to address such problems?
The SEN provisions of the Education (NI) Order 1996including
the SEN Tribunal and the additional guidance provided in the Code
of Practicehave now been fully implemented and therefore
already form a substantial part of "existing practice in
special education". The new measures have generally been
well received by voluntary and other representative groups and
such concerns as have been drawn to the Department's attention
have been addressed in discussion and correspondence with the
concerned bodies. The Tribunal President has also met representatives
of Boards and voluntary groups to hear their concerns at first
hand and explain the tribunal's approach to the determination
of appeals. The Department will continue to seek to address any
further concerns in a co-operative spirit and in full consultation
with all interests.
18 November 1998
ANNEX TO REPLY TO NORTHERN IRELAND AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
Question 2 (1)
The number of statemented pupils in mainstream education
in primary, secondary and grammar schools by management type is
Question 2 (iv)
The breakdown of children with statements by gender is as
1 Ev. p. 87-89. Back