Chapter 12 children with special educational needs of guide for school governorsThis chapter explains DE policy and legislation and the role and responsibilities of the education and library boards and the Boards of Governors of mainstream schools in relation to pupils with special educational needs (SEN).
In this chapter:
- DE policy and legislation
- The role of the education and library boards
- Responsibilities of the Board of Governors
- Admission of SEN pupils
- Teachers in maintream schools
- The statutory curriculum
- The law
Role of the Board of Governors
The role of the Board of Governors of a mainstream school is to exercise its functions in relation to the school with a view to ensuring that provision is made for registered pupils with special educational needs. The Board of Governors has a statutory duty to
12.1. All schools are involved in the provision of special education and the majority of pupils with special educational needs will be catered for in mainstream schools. It is government policy that children with special educational needs should normally be educated in mainstream schools, unless their parents disagree.
12.2. The law governing children with special educational needs is contained in Part II of the Education (NI) Order 1996 and Parts II and III of the Special Educational Needs and Disability (NI) Order 2005 (SENDO). The 1996 Order explains that a child has ‘special educational needs’, if he or she has a learning difficulty which calls for special educational provision to be made. A child has a ‘learning difficulty’ if
- he/she has significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of children of his/her age;
- he/she has a disability which either prevents or hinders him/her from making use of educational facilities of a kind generally provided for children of his/her age in ordinary schools; and
- he/she is under compulsory school age but is likely to fall within the first or second category above when he/she is of compulsory school age.
12.3. The children who need special education are those with obvious learning difficulties, such as the physically disabled, the deaf or blind. They also include those with less obvious learning difficulties, such as slow learners and emotionally vulnerable children. Many children may need special educational help at some stage during their time at school.
12.4. ‘Special educational provision’ is defined in law as educational provision for a child which is additional to, or otherwise different from, the educational provision made generally for children of his/her age at ordinary schools. Special educational provision can be made in different ways. It can mean extra help for a child being taught in an ordinary class or it can involve teaching the child in a specially resourced unit attached to a mainstream school, or in a special school. In a few cases, the needs of the child may be very complex or severe and require the education and library board to make a statutory assessment based on specialist advice. SENDO strengthened the right of children with SEN to a mainstream education as well as introducing further services for parents and, for the first time, permitting claims of disability discrimination in schools to be heard before the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.
12.5. The law enables DE to issue a Code of Practice on identifying and assessing SEN. The SEN Code which was issued on 1 September 1998 to every school, sets out detailed guidance on all aspects of providing for special educational needs in mainstream and special schools. All school Boards of Governors, as well as the education and library boards, must take account of the Code. As a result of SENDO, the Department introduced a Supplement to the Code in 2005.
12.6. The education and library boards are required to determine and to keep under review a policy in relation to special educational needs provision, after consultation with relevant interests including CCMS and the Boards of Governors of grant-aided schools.
12.7. The education and library board has overall responsibility for special educational needs provision and for formally assessing children with special educational needs who may need a statement of SEN. A child can be referred to the education and library board for assessment by the parents. A school principal may also ask the education and library board to assess a child who is considered by the school to need a statutory assessment. The education and library board must decide whether a statutory assessment is necessary and inform the parents. The Code of Practice contains guidance on the statutory assessment process and on the involvement of parents.
12.8. The statement made by the education and library board identifies all the child’s special educational needs and the arrangements needed to meet those needs, either in a mainstream school, or in a special school. Parents can express their preference for the school that they wish their child to attend. Any person with statutory duties in relation to a statemented child is required to ensure that the child is educated in a mainstream school if
- the education and library board is not required by law to specify a special school in the statement; and
- this is compatible with provision for the child’s special educational needs, the efficient education for the other children with whom the child would be educated and the efficient use of resources.
The Board of Governors is required to admit the child with a statement which names its school. Before naming a school in the statement, the education and library board must consult the Board of Governors.
12.9. The Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal for the North of Ireland may consider an appeal from parents against
- a decision of an education and library board, after making an assessment, not to make a statement of the child’ s special educational needs;
- the content of the statement of the child’s special educational needs in relation to the assessment, the special educational needs provision or the omission of a named school when the statement is first made, where the assessment or the special educational needs provision in the statement is amended or where, after conducting an assessment, the education and library board decides not to amend the statement.
Further information about such appeals is contained in the booklet 'How to Appeal' which may be obtained from the Tribunal, by application to the Tribunal Secretary at
Local telephone: 028 9032 2894
International telephone: +44 (0)28 9032 2894
or in writing toSpecial Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal Secretariat
2nd Floor Albany House
73-75 Great Victoria Street
Parents may also now make a claim of disability discrimination and further information on this 'Disability Discrimination in Schools' may also be obtained from the Tribunal.
12.10. The Board of Governors must use its best endeavours, in exercising its functions in relation to the school, to secure that if any registered pupil has special educational needs, the special educational provision which his/her learning calls for is made.
12.11. The Board of Governors, in consultation with the principal, decides the school’s policy in relation to special educational needs, both for children with statements and for those without. It must ensure that a special needs policy is prepared, kept under review and implemented. This may require consultation with the education and library board and the Boards of Governors of other grant-aided schools for the purpose of co-ordinating provision for SEN pupils. This policy must be compatible with the statutory provisions relating to education (including, in particular, those relating to children with special educational needs).
12.12. In exercising its functions in relation to the school, the Board of Governors must have regard to its SEN policy. This means that it must set up appropriate staffing and funding arrangements and oversee the school’s work in relation to SEN. The Board of Governors may establish a committee of its members to monitor the school’s work for children with special educational needs.
12.13. Those concerned with making special educational needs for a registered pupil, must secure that the pupil engages in the activities of the school together with the other children who do not have special educational needs. That is, so far as this is compatible, with the pupil receiving appropriate special educational needs provision and with the provision of efficient education for the other pupils with who he/she is educated and also with the efficient use of resources.
12.14. In addition, the Board of Governors has a statutory duty to prepare a written Accessibility Plan that
- indicates the extent to which disabled pupils can participate in the school’s curriculum;
- demonstrates how the physical environment of the school will be improved to enable disabled pupils to take advantage of education and associated services provided or offered by the school;
- demonstrates how the delivery to disabled pupils will be improved within a reasonable time and in ways which take account of the pupils’ disabilities, any preferences of parents and information provided in writing by pupils who are not disabled;
- takes account of the need for the Board of Governors to allocate adequate resources to implement the plan;
- is kept under review;
- is properly implemented; and
- report annually to parents on the steps they have taken to implement the special educational needs policy and accessibility plan.
12.15. The Board of Governors should not refuse to admit a child because it considers that its school cannot cater for pupils with special educational needs. Pupils with special educational needs, but without statements, must be treated as fairly as all other applicants on the basis of the school’s published admissions criteria. A child with special educational needs should not be refused admission on the grounds that they do not have a statement or are being currently assessed.
12.16. Parents may express a preference for the school which they wish their child to attend. The education and library board must comply with that preference unless the school is unsuitable for the child’s age, ability, aptitude or special educational needs, or the placement would be incompatible with the efficient education of the other children with whom the child would be educated, or with the efficient use of resources. Before naming a school in the statement, the education and library board must consult the Board of Governors. Once a school is named in the statement, the Board of Governors must admit the child.
12.17. Most admissions to special schools (not established in a hospital) are determined by the statement of special educational needs and will reflect parental preference. Before naming a school in the statement, the education and library board must consult the Board of Governors. The education and library board has to consider the school’s arrangements, in other words the number, age, sex and special educational needs of the pupils for whom the school makes provision. Once a school is named in the statement, the Board of Governors must admit the child. A child without a statement of special educational needs may also be admitted to a special school for the purpose of assessment, or in specific circumstances. Pupils may only be admitted to a special school established in a hospital where there is a need for hospital treatment.
12.18. The law requires the Board of Governors of a mainstream school to designate a member of staff at the school, to be known as the special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO). The SEN Code of Practice says the SENCO is responsible for
- the implementation of the school’s SEN policy;
- working with and advising teachers;
- co-ordinating the teaching provided for children with special educational needs and overseeing the records of such pupils;
- maintaining contact with parents of SEN pupils and contributing to the in-service training of staff; and
- working with external agencies, including the educational psychology service.
In a small school, the principal or vice-principal may be the SENCO. In a larger school, another teacher may be the SENCO and there may be a wider learning support team. The Board of Governors and the principal must think carefully about the SENCO’s role in the context of the Code of Practice and the resources available to the school.
12.19. The statutory curriculum applies to pupils with special educational needs, but may be changed or not applied in specific cases. Teachers need to set suitable learning challenges for all pupils, respond to their diverse needs and overcome potential barriers to learning and assessment for individuals and groups of pupils.
12.20. Pupils with special educational needs may require extra help. The costs of extra help for pupils without statements who attend mainstream schools is met from the school’s budget allocation.
Education (NI) Order 1996, Part II - Articles 3-28 and
The Special Educational Needs and Disability (NI) Order 2005 - Article 13-18
Code of Practice on the Identification and Assessment of Special Educational Needs
http://www.deni.gov.uk/the_code_of_practice.pdf PDF 417 KB
Supplement to the Code of Practice
http://www.deni.gov.uk/supplement.pdf PDF 259 KB
DE Circular 2009/03 Regulations on use of work enhancements where students with disabilities have been granted exemptions from one or more components of an examination
http://www.deni.gov.uk/de_circular_2009.03_-_mark_enhancements_-_english_version.pdf PDF 53 KB
DE Circular 2009/12 Every School A Good School: Way Forward on SEN
http://www.deni.gov.uk/the_way_forward_for_special_educational_needs__sen__and_inclusion____8211___public_consultation_-_2009-12__eng_.pdf PDF 51 KB