Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Transformation Programme

This programme aims to transform special educational needs and disability services in order to provide the best support.

The Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Transformation Programme has been established to deliver all the work that is required to make positive and lasting changes to the special educational needs system. Our aim through this programme is to transform our services and supports for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, and their families.  

About the Programme

Over the last decade and more, the proportion of children and young people who have special educational needs or a disability (SEND) has been increasing. The complexity of those needs has also been increasing.

Many reports have been published in recent years about our SEND support services, by a range of organisations, including the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People.

These reports made a lot of recommendations for change and we know that we must do better for all our children and young people with SEND.

That is why we have decided to establish the SEND Transformation Programme.

The vision for this programme is that all children and young people with SEND and their families will receive the right support, at the right time to reach their educational goals and get the best possible start in life.

The work we need to do to transform our SEND system is complex and it will take time. We have prioritised a range of projects which will be delivered over the next two years to begin that transformation journey.

To be successful, this ambitious programme needs to be developed and delivered collaboratively with children, young people and their families, our schools, public service partners, trade unions and wider stakeholders.

We need to hear all your voices throughout this transformation journey. You are a trusted partner. Your knowledge, experiences and perspectives will help shape this Programme, and ultimately improve outcomes for all our children and young people with SEND.

Consultation and Engagement

We are currently establishing forums and vehicles for engagement and consultation with all our stakeholders which will run across the full lifespan of the programme. That includes forums for practitioners such as school leaders, teachers & SENCOs and forums for other service staff. We are also currently establishing a direct engagement programme for our families, children and young people. As our new projects come on stream we will also be establishing stakeholder advisory groups for each to focus on detailed operational matters. Further detail on these engagement channels will be provided as soon as possible.

Our Programme Reference Group (PRG) has been meeting over the last year and is made up of wider education and health bodies, and community and voluntary organisations, which includes parent and carer groups. The role of the PRG is to provide a continual stakeholder input to the programme’s development and roll out and to hold the Programme Board to account. While our other engagement channels are being established, the PRG continues to provide a route through which stakeholders can influence programme decision-making.

Details of any forthcoming engagement sessions will be included in the news and updates section below.

Enquiries relating to the SEND Transformation Programme can be sent to: SENDTransformation@eani.org.uk

Projects underway

The work we need to do to transform our Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) services and supports for our children and young people is complex and it will take time. The first thing that we have done is identify priority projects which will be developed and delivered over the next two years.

These projects will focus on co-designing and trialling a range of new SEND supports, spanning the Educational Psychology Service, all of our SEND pupil support services and the employment model for Classroom Assistants.

Below will find overviews of all projects that will be delivered within the next two academic years.

Consolidation of the Classroom Assistant Employment Model (Education Authority)

This project will review the current employment model for SEND classroom assistants and provide recommendations for change.

The focus of the review will be on how to optimise the capacity and development of the classroom assistant workforce to support pupils with SEND.

Review of the Educational Psychology Service Model (Education Authority)

The focus of the project will be to build a sustainable Educational Psychology Service model which will be efficient, effective, flexible and responsive to the needs of children and young people with SEND and their families. It will improve the accessibility and availability of appropriate support so that all our children and young people with SEND can achieve the best possible outcomes in life.

Review of Early Years SEN Supports (Education Authority)

The focus of this review will be on developing a model which meets the holistic needs of children, parents and education providers, so that children and young people’s needs can be identified earlier, and more effective early intervention can be provided so that the best possible outcomes can be achieved.

The project will be progressed in parallel to the reviews of other EA SEND pupil support services and Educational Psychology Service to ensure that all aspects of the resulting SEND support system are fully joined up.

Development of an Integrated SEND Pupil Support Service Model (Education Authority)

Demand for SEND services has increased significantly since the Education Authority was established. We recognised that services were not joined up, can be rigid in terms of eligibility and intervention models and have complex and slow referral routes.

All of these factors are contributing to children and young people not receiving the right support at the earliest point.

This review will consider the current form, function and resourcing of EA’s SEND Pupil Support Services and determine whether a more integrated model could be more effective, efficient and child-centred.

Statutory Assessment Improvement Project (Education Authority)

This project has been underway since 2020. Processes and systems have already been reviewed and revised, which has helped with improving our compliance with the statutory timeframe of completing a Statutory Assessment within 26 weeks.

Staff structures are currently being expanded and re-designed to allow preparation for the SEND Act requirements (including the Statutory Assessment timeframe being reduced from 26 to 22 weeks).

SEN Placement Project (Education Authority)

There has been a significant increase in demand for places in special schools and specialist support within mainstream schools. We have therefore initiated the SEND Placement Project to address those pressures and as a result, more than 100 additional classrooms and supports have been created over the last year and another range are planned for 2022/23. Significant planning for 2023 is already underway.

Special Education Strategic Area Plan (Education Authority)

This project has involved securing Ministerial approval for two area planning frameworks in 2021 and the resulting strategic area plan became operational in September 2022.

SEND Act Implementation (Department of Education)

The Department of Education has publicly consulted on the new SEN regulations and Code of Practice and will present these to the Northern Ireland Assembly at the first available opportunity followed by phased commencement of the provisions within the SEND Act.

Review of Multi-Disciplinary Working (Department of Education)

Significant work has already been undertaken in relation to improving the co-operation between Education and Health, including the introduction of smarter ways of working involving technology and the use of uniformed templates. A memorandum of understanding between Education and Health will be developed and consideration will be given to how co-operation can be improved further.

Review of SEN-Related Workload (Department of Education)

A Joint (Northern Ireland Teaching Council & Management) working group was established in 2021 to consider and progress the key issues in relation to SEN workload as defined by NITC.  A report detailing findings, agreements and recommendations is currently being finalised.

Review of Suspensions, Expulsions and Informal Exclusions (Department of Education)

This project was started in 2019 with the focus of reviewing the current legislation and identifying key issues relating to suspensions and expulsions across schools. This review has now been completed and a report is currently being finalised with findings and recommendations for improvement.

ETI Evaluation of SEN Provision in Mainstream Schools (Department of Education)

This project is in the final stages of  completion and has focused on the effectiveness of the new specialist provisions which were established in 2021 under the SEN Placement Project.

Transitions Working Group (Department of Education)

This is jointly led by the Department of Education and Department of Health. The Group has been established to review the statutory planning and support arrangements for young people with SEND who are transitioning out of school and into adult life.

Engagement Opportunities

There are currently no engagements planned.

Last updated: 12/06/2023