Country information for UK (Northern Ireland) - Assessment within inclusive education systems

Under the Special Educational Needs (SEN) Framework, statutory responsibility for securing provision for learners with SEN rests with both schools and the Education Authority (EA). Under special education legislation, they are responsible for identifying, assessing and, in appropriate cases, making provision for learners with SEN in their areas.

The Code of Practice on the Identification and Assessment of Special Educational Needs sets out a five-stage approach to the process. Some learners may move between stages as their needs are met. Some learners will have their needs met locally by their own school. Some learners’ needs will be so great that they require specialist intervention through the completion of a Statement of Special Educational Needs by the EA.

Stage 1 is school-based. Here, some initial concern might be expressed and the class teacher will inform the SEN Co-ordinator (SENCO) in the school, who will register the learner’s special needs. The teacher will assess the needs and give special help within the normal classroom setting.

Stage 2 is school-based. Here, the SENCO and the class teacher will draw up and implement an individual education plan.

Stage 3 is also school-based, but here the school can seek Stage 3 support from external specialist services, including those provided by the EA. A revised education plan is drawn up to reflect the additional support.

Stage 4 is where the EA considers the need for a statutory assessment. A learner is referred to the EA by the school or parent. The EA then has six weeks to decide whether it will conduct a statutory assessment. If the EA decides to conduct a statutory assessment, it will seek parental and professional opinion to enable it to undertake the assessment. The EA has a further 10 weeks to conduct the assessment and decide if a statement is needed. A statutory assessment will not always lead to a statement.

Stage 5 – the Statement. This is where the EA has decided that the degree of the learner’s learning difficulty or disability, and the nature of the provision necessary to meet the learner’s needs, require it to determine the SEN provision by making a statement. If a statement is to be made, the EA has a further 10 weeks to put a final statement in place. The Department of Education requires the EA to draft all statements within the 18-week statutory timeframe, subject only to the exemptions outlined in the Code of Practice.

The Northern Ireland Executive (the Executive) approved a revised SEN framework in July 2012. This Executive agreement included a move from five to three stages of support, aiming to remove or reduce the barriers to learning faced by children with SEN. However, a move to three stages will only take place following consultation (planned in early 2020) on new SEN Regulations and a new Code of Practice on the identification, assessment and provision of SEN.

Last updated 18/02/2020

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