Children do not all learn at the same rate or pace. Some children and young people need extra help at school because they find it harder to learn than other people of their age or because they have a disability that makes it more difficult for them to learn.
The following information relates to children of school age. Click here for information on the process for pre-school children.
In the 1996 Education Order, a child is described as having special educational needs (SEN) if they have a significantly greater difficulty in learning than other children which calls for special educational provision to be made for them, that is additional to or otherwise different from that which children of a similar age receive in an ordinary school.
A child also has SEN if they have a disability that calls for special educational provision to be made for them.
If your child’s school thinks that your child needs special educational provision, they will discuss this with you and they will place your child on the school’s SEN Register.
Only the school can decide if your child should be placed on the SEN Register. Schools have clear processes for identifying and assessing children with special educational needs. Staff will strive to ensure that your child’s needs are fully met whether they have learning difficulties or SEN.
The school will meet regularly with you to discuss your child’s needs and agree targets for their Individual Education Plan (IEP). They will also discuss what you can do to help.
If your child does not make adequate progress on the targets in their IEPs and continues to experience significant difficulties, the school may wish to seek further advice and support from the Education Authority. The school’s Principal and/or Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo) will discuss this with you.
Your child’s teacher is responsible for meeting the needs of all pupils in their class. Teachers use a wide variety of activities to support pupils’ learning. This can include different teaching styles, differentiation, group work and access to individual support. All schools have the resources to meet the vast majority of learning needs experienced by pupils.
If you are worried about your child's progress, contact the class or form teacher who will arrange a time to meet with you. The teacher will explain how your child is getting on in school and, if needed, will address any concerns you may have. The teacher will also advise on how you can help your child at home.
The school will make time to listen to concerns and can offer advice and support if needed.
Children do not all learn at the same rate or pace. Some may have difficulties with aspects of their learning from time to time but most children with learning difficulties do not have special educational needs.
If your child is provided with different work or activities in class from that of their peers, you should not worry. All children are different. Teachers are highly-skilled professionals and use a wide range of approaches and strategies to help children and young people learn.
Children and young people make progress at different rates and have different ways in which they learn best. Teachers take account of this by looking carefully at how they organise lessons, the classroom, the books and the materials they give to each child, as well as the way they teach.
Teachers have a professional responsibility to act upon their assessments and observations. Therefore, they will always choose the most appropriate way to help each child or young person learn from a range of activities within a continuum of support. This is often described as differentiating the curriculum and is known as whole school educational provision.
Teachers use effective differentiation, high quality teaching and reasonable adjustments to cater for children’s needs.
Only when this whole school educational provision ceases to be effective and the pupil is not making progress, because in the school’s opinion the pupil has a significantly greater difficulty in learning, should the school consider making special educational provision.
The class or form teacher and/or the Special Educational Needs Coordinator of the school will arrange to meet to discuss the need for special educational provision for your child and what this entails in the school your child attends.
All children who have an identified special educational need will be placed on the school’s Special Educational Needs register and will have an Individual Education Plan (IEP).
If your child does not make progress over time, the school will follow the various stages set out in the Code of Practice on the Identification and Assessment of Special Educational Needs (SEN).
A Supplement to the Code of Practice is also followed by schools.
The Department of Education are currently finalising a new Code of Practice which will replace the 1998 Code. The new Code of Practice is one of the key elements of the New SEN Framework.
In the vast majority of cases, schools, parents and the Education Authority work together to resolve issues and difficulties around identifying and meeting the needs of pupils with Special Educational Needs. However, it is recognised that on occasion, difficulties can arise.
If there is a disagreement between parents and school in relation to a child on the school’s Special Educational Needs Register, you may wish to consider in the first instance, arranging a meeting with your child’s teacher, the Special Educational Needs Coordinator or getting in touch with the Principal.
If after taking these steps you are still not satisfied, please write to the Chair of the school’s Board of Governors.
You may wish to talk to a member of the EA SEN Helpline for general advice and information.