It is obviously in the best interests of parents
and children alike that the statementing process takes as short
a period of time as possible. We urge ELBs to make every effort
to secure the completion of the statementing process within the
limits prescribed in the Code of Practice. We recommend that they
review their practices and procedures as a matter of urgency with
a view to ensuring that as many cases as possible are so completed.
This will include ensuring that adequate administrative and professional
resources are available to be devoted to this important function.
The review should include an examination of Boards' own administrative
procedures with a view to ensuring that there are no unnecessary
administrative delays. We also recommend that the Boards consider
jointly how best to complete the statementing process as rapidly
and efficiently as possible. This would provide a mechanism both
for disseminating best practice and promoting consistency of approach
across the whole of Northern Ireland.
We agree with the Northern Ireland Audit Office
that a lack of involvement of ELBs in the annual review process
weakens their ability to manage special educational resources
effectively. It may also mean that the most appropriate provision
is not made for the child in the forthcoming year. We therefore
recommend that ELBs consider carefully the case for devoting additional
staff resources to this important function, as the Comptroller
and Auditor General recommended.
There is a need to seek to establish, as far as
possible, common criteria on the purpose and aims of statementing.
We recommend that the Government commission appropriate research.
Without such benchmarks, it is not possible to assess with any
confidence the effectiveness of the considerable level of public
The Comptroller and Auditor General also expressed
concern about the variations in the levels of statementing, which
he considered might reflect a lack of consistent criteria for
identifying pupils with special educational needs, or different
interpretations of the definition of special educational needs.
We recommend that the Comptroller and Auditor General's recommendations
designed to improve consistency be carefully studied.
There is a variation between Boards in the number
of children referred for assessment and in the number of statements
written. The Comptroller and Auditor General has also drawn attention
to a number of other differences between Boards and with comparable
local authorities elsewhere in the United Kingdom. While we recognise
the reality of such differences, and that the reasons for their
existence are likely to be complex, we recommend that the ELBs
seek to agree common bases for their definition of assessment
of special educational needs and seek to develop common approaches.
The research we have recommended in paragraph 51 [see
recommendation (e)] may have a part to play in this process.
As the problems encountered are not unique to Northern Ireland,
there may be scope for drawing on experience elsewhere in the
While we recognise that there have been many moves
to improve parental involvement and increase their right to appeal
through Tribunals within the field of special educational needs,
there are still many unresolved issues. Recent research in the
Graduate School of Education at Queen's University indicates that
parents frequently feel alienated by the assessment process and
do not feel well enough informed to make a meaningful contribution.
They also complained about the delays in the statementing process
and often did not understand the statement when it eventually
was completed. Furthermore, they perceived a lack of cohesion
in the statementing procedure when both education and health and
social services were involved. We recommend that DENI, the ELBs
and the HSSBs review the scope for improving parental perceptions
of their involvement. A greater attention to this aspect in the
training of the professionals involved might be appropriate.
The Code of Practice advises Boards that special
educational needs assessments should be carried out as quickly
as possible, insofar as this is compatible with thorough consideration
of the issues in individual cases. In the more complex cases assessment
may need to be more prolonged, but in normal circumstances the
stage of issuing a proposed statement should be reached no more
than 18 weeks from initial referral. Boards have indicated in
their evidence to the Committee that they are fully committed
to meeting this timescale, together with the subsidiary targets
identified in the Code of Practice. To assist in this process,
the Department has earmarked substantial additional resources
to increase complements of educational psychologists and to strengthen
necessary administrative support.
Under the aegis of the Education and Library Boards'
Regional Strategy Group, assessment procedures are being reviewed
to achieve maximum throughput and to seek ways of securing greater
consistency. Board performance in this area will be monitored,
and a research project is planned to identify necessary improvements
in the quality of management information available for this purpose.
As far as annual reviews are concerned, regulations
made under the Education (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 require
more direct involvement by Education and Library Boards. In consultation
with the Regional Strategy Group, the Department has earmarked
£75,000 to facilitate the creation of additional administrative
support from September 1999 in each Board, in part to assist with
work arising from annual reviews.
The Regional Strategy Group is also considering how
far common statementing criteria can be applied across all five
Boards, recognising that, for historical and other reasons, similar
options as to the provision to be made may not be available to
all Boards in all circumstances.
On the issues relating to parents identified in recommendation
(r), the outcomes of the research in question are acknowledged,
and the Regional Strategy Group has been seeking ways to improve
liaison with parents and other partners on both a local and regional
basis. The additional administrative post to be created in each
Board in 19992000 will be deployed in part to improve communication
with parents. It is also relevant that the Northern Ireland Code
of Practice strongly emphasises the importance of the role of
parents at all stages of the child's development, and this emphasis
will feature more prominently in future professional training.
Our predecessors reported in February 1997 on
underachievement in Northern Ireland secondary schools and reached
a number of conclusions about school funding and social disadvantage,
and TSN funding in particular. In its response in July 1997, the
Government reported that it had received a consultants' report
on TSN methodology and, in particular, dealing with two separate,
but interrelated, strands of the policy social deprivation
and special educational need. The Government agreed that more
should be done to monitor how
targeted resources are used and to evaluate their
impact on pupils with social and educational needs. We recommend
that the Government take the opportunity of its response to this
Report to state what progress it has made in this area.
Given that schools are now required to state in
their annual reports their policy with regard to provision for
special educational needs, we believe they should also be required
to publish details of how they have used that part of their delegated
budget intended to be spent in this area. Quantification of expenditure
would provide an objective basis for future allocations, and remove
the need for indirect formulae.
Given the likely growth in the number of statemented
children, at least in the short to medium term, and the limited
capacity of special schools and units, it is likely that an increased
number of these children will be educated in mainstream schools.
The challenge for such schools will be enhanced by the fact that
many of these children are likely to have more profound needs
than such schools have normally faced hitherto. This will need
to be reflected in the funding such schools receive. Greater targeting
of resources where they are needed will be facilitated by our
recommendation that schools take steps to identify expenditure
on meeting special educational needs.
Given the likelihood that there will be continued
pressure on resources for meeting special educational needs, we
consider there is a case for ELBs to look closely at their expenditure
on special schools and special units, and at provision for meeting
special educational needs in mainstream schools, to ensure that
resources are deployed to greatest effect. There would appear
to be a good case for according higher priority to capital expenditure
on special schools, where to do so would improve their capacity
to deliver good quality services, and to provide specialist support
to mainstream schools.
The Department has been considering future arrangements
for the distribution of TSN funds as part of the work on the development
of a Common LMS Formula for all schools in Northern Ireland with
delegated budgets and also in the context of "New TSN"
which was launched by the Secretary of State in July 1998.
The Department invited the LMS Steering Group to
establish a Working Group representative of the main education
partners and including school principals to consider the distribution
of TSN funds within a common formula. The Working Group's report
was considered by the Steering Group at its meeting in early May
and the Department is currently considering its recommendations.
The Department plans to issue a consultation document on a common
LMS formula, including arrangements for TSN funding, to all schools
later this year.
In terms of accounting for the use of resources,
the Code of Practice requires (para 2.8) each school to state
the SEN resource allocation in its annual report. The Department
is considering the case for a consistent format for reporting
of TSN expenditure in the light of the recent report by NIAO,
the experience gained under current reporting arrangements set
out in the Code of Practice and in line with the new arrangements
introduced for TSN as part of the Common Formula. This will be
taken forward in the context of the TSN Action Plan being prepared
in consultation with our education partners.
In addition, the Education and Training Inspectorate
intends to include a request for information about each school's
funding allocation prior to inspection.
As far as increased funding for mainstream placements
is concerned, the Department is seeking to promote more placements
in mainstream schools for children with special educational needs,
both statemented and nonstatemented. Two new initiatives
for 19992000 have particular relevance. These will provide:
- an additional £1.2 million to promote more
placements for pupils with special educational needs in mainstream
schools, mainly by increasing numbers of specialist outreach and
peripatetic teachers and classroom support staff, by up to ten
per Board in each case; and
- an additional £0.5 million to fund improvements
in disabled access to mainstream schools, by providing ramps,
disabled toilets and the like.
The first of these initiatives will in particular
enable the development of a role for special schools as centres
of specialist knowledge and expertise on which mainstream schools
may draw as required. Integration support for mainstream schools
will be especially facilitated by the expansion of outreach and
peripatetic teaching services as part of this initiative.
On the particular question of value for money, a
research specification is being formulated under the aegis of
the Regional Strategy Group on the relative effectiveness and
efficiency of various forms of provision. Amongst other issues,
this project will consider the relative roles of special and mainstream
schools. As far as priority for special schools in the Department's
capital programme is concerned, all special schools' major building
works have been accorded high priority Category 3
in the Schools Capital Planning List. The Department will continue
to give priority to the needs of special schools in the determination
of the capital programme, within available capital resources.
3. CODE OF PRACTICE
It is clear that the Education (Northern Ireland)
Order 1996 and the Code of Practice represent a watershed in special
education provision in Northern Ireland. The Government has recognised
that this will involve significant additional resources, both
for schools (including special schools) and for implementing the
Code of Practice. It will also require a change of approach to
the delivery of education to children with special educational
needs to ensure that there is compliance with both the spirit
and the administrative mechanisms of the Code. In changing the
approach, it will be important for all concerned to keep in mind
that fact that the overwhelming majority of children with special
educational needs perhaps as many as nine out of ten
will have those needs assessed and met outside the statementing
framework and within the resources ordinarily expected to be available
in mainstream schools. We hope, therefore, that very careful consideration
will be given to implementing the recommendations of the Dyson
Report. We consider that an informed debate involving both service
providers and their "customers" the children
and their parents would be beneficial.
Given the scope and nature of the changes likely
to arise in meeting special educational needs provision following
the introduction of the Code of Practice, we consider it important
that progress should be kept under review. We recommend that DENI
do so, and amend the Code as necessary in the light of experience.
There is also a case for continuing parliamentary interest in
this important and sensitive area.
On the matter of additional funding for schools,
the Government has accepted that the implementation of the 1996
Order and Code of Practice has significant resource implications
for schools in particular. In the current year, the amount for
distribution direct to schools experiencing particular pressures
in catering for special needs has been increased from £2
million to £3.6 million.
On the question of follow-up action to the Newcastle
University Study, DENI has welcomed this research as providing
a baseline for monitoring the operation of the Code of Practice
and a framework within which a number of issues can be addressed.
With particular reference to the professional issues
raised by the study report, these have been addressed in the following
- DENI issued to schools last year complementary
copies of the DfEE SENCO Guide, identifying best practice in developing
the role of the SEN Coordinator; preparing education plans;
and drawing up school SEN policies;
- the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI)
have met with Professor Dyson to discuss his report in detail,
and he has himself addressed a recent ETI staff development seminar;
- all focussed inspections in the primary phase
this term are concentrating on SEN, in accordance with specific
guidance which draws on the study findings;
- members of the ETI with responsibilities for
special education have addressed teachers' groups and met with
personnel from the Education and Library Boards' Curriculum Advice
and Support Service to discuss the implications of the Code of
- the provision of outreach services by special
schools to mainstream schools was especially highlighted in inspection
reports last session, and outreach has been further emphasized
in the ETI survey report on provision for pupils with emotional
and behavioural problems; and
- each Education and Library Board has appointed
an officer to promote the Code, and Boards are considering the
development of local working/support groups.
DENI fully endorses recommendation (s). The Department's
intention has been to commission followup research to the
Dyson study at the most appropriate time, ie, when the NI Code
of Practice has had a reasonable period for assimilation in schools,
bearing in mind that the Code is still in its first year of operation
here. Meanwhile, it is proposed to establish a joint DENI/Board
working group under the aegis of the Regional Strategy Group to
monitor the operation of the Code of Practice. Developments in
England, where a Code of Practice has been in operation for over
4 years, will also be closely studied, partly through the presence
of a DENI representative at meetings of a DfEE committee established
to recommend changes to the Code of Practice for England and Wales.
Any future proposed changes to the Code of Practice will be the
subject of wide and detailed consultation.
4. EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGISTS
We are pleased that Mr McFall saw the need to
remedy the current shortage of educational psychologists as an
urgent issue and that he proposes to have discussions with both
Queen's University and the ELBs. We recommend that these discussions
include the scope for increasing the teaching and training resources
with a view to seeking to eliminate the shortage in this key function
as soon as is practicable.
We consider it important that the opportunity
to train as an educational psychologist should be available to
as wide a pool of applicants as possible. In particular, we consider
there is a good case for attracting teachers with a greater degree
of experience. We have seen suggestions that the present level
of funding of Temporary Employment Contracts may be
a deterrent to applicants, particularly more experienced
teachers. We understand that in Scotland there has recently been
a move to increase significantly the value of Temporary Employment
Contracts to address this problem there. We recommend that the
value of such contracts in Northern Ireland be reviewed.
A revised scheme for the allocation of training awards
to trainee educational psychologists is being drawn up in discussion
with Queen's University. Details for the first year of the scheme
will shortly be finalised, with the aim of expanding the capacity
of the present MSc Course in Developmental and Educational Psychology
to enable up to 11 trainees (the current level is 6) to attain
the qualification each year, initially for a 3 year period when
the situation will be reviewed. Amongst other things, this will
involve increasing the value of Temporary Employment Contracts
from £12,500 to £17,500.
In addition, by the end of this year, up to 20 additional
educational psychologist posts will have been funded under the
Department's SEN Code of Practice initiative. Arrangements to
put in place a Continuing Professional Development Doctorate for
serving educational psychologists is also currently under discussion.
The Department has committed £810,000 in additional
resources for 19992000 to fund these developments, made
up as follows:
Additional educational psychologists/clerical support||£630,000|
|Additional training support for MSc Course||£145,000|
|Support for preparation for introduction of CPD Doctorate||£35,000|
5. SPEECH AND LANGUAGE THERAPISTS
We recommend that steps be taken to seek to improve
the recruitment and retention of speech and language therapists
in Northern Ireland. We note that the Department of Health and
Social Services is seeking to update the methodology for identifying
needs in terms of manpower planning in partnership with HSSBs
and Trusts. We look to the Secretary of State, in responding to
this Report, to indicate how it is intended to tackle the recruitment
and retention problems.
In the current financial year the Department of Health
and Social Services has allocated £400,000 specifically for
therapy provision to preschool and school children with
In addition, an exercise is being conducted under
the aegis of the Regional Review Group to determine the level
of provision of therapy to children with special needs in schools,
including identification of unmet need. DHSS itself will carry
out a Workforce Planning exercise to assess the demand for staff
across all the "therapy" professions, including speech
and language therapy. This will take into account the need to
provide a service to schools for children with special needs.
The outcome of this exercise will determine what further action
needs to be taken.
6. CO-OPERATION BETWEEN EDUCATION AND LIBRARY
BOARDS AND HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES BOARDS
We welcome the conclusion of the Interagency Agreement
for the provision of education, health and social services to
children with special educational needs. We hope this will provide
a catalyst for improved service provision to children with special
needs. In their evidence to us, both ELBs and HSSBs have described
details of the ways in which they work together to meet the needs
of the child. Given the collective constraints of both human and
financial resources, we look to the Boards to build on their experience
when they review the operation of the Agreement later this year.
We believe that both HSSBs and ELBs may need collectively
to work together more closely in meeting parental expectations
for services. As the Interagency Agreement states, the HSSBs and
ELBs believe that through collaborative work more effective use
can be made of the available resources and best long term effect
can be gained for children. We hope that they will pay full regard
to parental concerns in this respect, and seek to draw on the
expertise of organisations with particular interest in and experience,
of assisting children with special educational needs.
The Department has been advised that the work programme
of the Regional Review Group for 1999/2000 will include reviews
of nursing, therapy, medical and social services support to schools.
A SubGroup has begun the review of nursing provision, with
the initial focus on the particular needs of children in special
schools. Consultation will take place with parents, teachers and
relevant voluntary organisations on the relevant issues. Membership
of the SubGroup includes representation from the University
of Ulster, MENCAP, special schools and DHSS, as well as officers
of Boards and Trusts.
The Regional Review Group will also seek to develop
joint training initiatives between education and health personnel.
It is also proposed to audit the operation of the InterAgency
Agreement in November.
We recommend that DENI reviews the current scope
and extent of training for teachers in special schools and takes
steps to ensure that adequate funds are available to ELBs for
inservice training in this area. We also recommend that
special school inspections specifically include an assessment
of the current state of staff training.
It is clear to us that the success or otherwise
of a mainstream school's SEN policy will stand or fall on the
competence and commitment of the SENCO. It is therefore vital
that schools select their SENCO with particular care and ensure
that they receive appropriate training. The Dyson Report emphasised
the contribution to be made by inservice training in this
respect. We understand that there is likely to be pressure to
extend the duration of training for SENCOs. While we note Mr Manning's
assurance that the withdrawal of funding for awardbearing
inservice courses has not, as had been feared, depressed
demand, we hope that DENI will take steps to ensure that appropriate
funding arrangements are in place to ensure that lack of funding
does not discourage potential trainees. We welcome the ringfenced
resources which DENI is providing for training, including SENCO
training, which is designed to have a significant impact on the
quality and status of SENCOs within schools. We believe that the
introduction of the Code of Practice means that teachers generally,
and not just SENCOs, will need greater training in special educational
needs, not least because of the likely increase in the number
of children with such needs placed in mainstream schools. We recommend
the continued provision of ringfenced training resources
in this area.
DENI has continued to earmark substantial resources
to assist with the training of school teachers and governors in
the current financial year, and this is available to both special
and mainstream schools. Areas requiring specialist training in,
for example, speech and language problems, TEACCH, etc, will be
identified as a particular focus of INSET so that teachers in
special schools can keep themselves up to date with current practice
and thinking. The Committee for the Early Professional Development
(CEPD) of teachers will shortly undertake the preparation of focussed
activities in specific special needs (eg Autism, Asperger Syndrome
etc) which beginning teachers can take in the two years of early
professional development, following their induction year.
Special schools will be encouraged to identify their
development needs in SEN, and plan effective schoolbased
INSET related to this. There is a particular need for conversion
training courses for teachers, including beginning teachers, who
are transferring from mainstream to special schools. The Department
also fully endorses the recommendation that special school inspections
could usefully include an assessment of the current state of staff
training, and ETI will implement this immediately.
On the matter of SENCO training, the Department accepts
that the competence of SENCOs is a vital component. SENCO training
is substantially enhanced through earmarked Code of Practice
funding, and this has meant that significant time and resources
have been allocated to enhance SENCO training, including the production
of a CDROM training package for all schools. INSET has in
this respect met the recommendation in the Dyson Report, and the
related question of SENCO accreditation will be addressed.
1 The references in this Annex are to the Committee's
summary of its principal conclusions and recommendations, set
out in paragraph 80 of the Report. Back