Main menu

Innovations and developments - Ireland

Progress towards an effective model for assessment

A continuum approach to assessment and intervention

Recent legislation, circular letters and official guidelines reflect DES policy and the consensus that has emerged between NEPS, the NCSE and the NCCA on a staged/continuum approach to support for pupils with special educational needs, including assessment.  This approach is expected to be used as part of assessment under section 3 of the EPSEN act, where there is an emphasis on early intervention by the school to ameliorate children’s difficulties. 

NEPS promotes a consultative, preventative model of intervention that empowers teachers to carry out as much assessment and planning work as possible, thus allowing far more children to be supported than would be possible in a model exclusively requiring individual referral to, and assessment by, psychologists.

This continuum model of assessment and intervention has been most recently explained in the booklets, issued by NEPS to all primary and special schools: Special Educational Needs: A Continuum of Support (Guidelines for Teachers) and Special Educational Needs: A Continuum of Support (Resource Pack for Teachers) (

The recommended levels of assessment and intervention are: 

  • Classroom Support
  • School Support
  • School Support Plus 

Classroom Support

If a parent or teacher suspects that a child may have a specific difficulty, or if the child is not progressing as well as their peers, the class teacher may assess the child, using standardised tests, observation and information from the child, parents and other sources. This leads to a Classroom Support Plan.

School Support

A move to this level is undertaken when the class teacher considers that further intervention from specialist teachers within the school is necessary. Individual assessment is carried out by the learning support and/or the resource teacher, supplemented by information from the class teacher, child, parent and other sources. School Support supplements Classroom Support with additional focussed teaching time, as necessary. 

School Support Plus

This process involves professionals and support services external to the school. A move to this level is undertaken when it is agreed, after review, that the student is not making adequate progress, in spite of the supports already supplied in school.  It involves individual assessment by professionals outside the school: NEPS psychologists, HSE personnel and others. Depending on the outcome of this assessment, additional resources, including teaching resources, may be allocated to a school for the support of the pupil concerned.



  • DES – Department of Education and Science
  • EPSEN Act – Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act
  • HSE – Health Services Executive
  • NCCA – National Council for Curriculum and Assessment
  • NCSE – National Council for Special Education
  • NEPS – National Educational Psychological Service
  • LinkedIn
  • Google +