SEN (Northern Ireland)

22% of the school population in Northern Ireland are reported as having special educational needs (SEN).

The majority of these children will be taught in mainstream schools, and schools will be expected to ensure they are given the support they need.

A school’s responsibilities

The Code of Practice on the Identification and Assessment Identification and Assessment of Special Educational Need details the responsibilities of schools to support SEN children. A supplement to the code of practice was published in 2005.

The code of practice sets out a five stage approach to identifying and supporting children with SEN:

  • Stage 1: teachers identify and register a child’s special educational needs and, consulting the school’s SEN co-ordinator, take initial action.
  • Stage 2: the SEN co-ordinator takes lead responsibility for collecting and recording information and for co-ordinating the child’s special educational provision, working with the child’s teachers.
  • Stage 3: teachers and the SEN co-ordinator are supported by specialists from outside the school.
  • Stage 4: the local education authority (EA) considers the need for a statutory assessment and, if appropriate, makes a multi-disciplinary assessment.
  • Stage 5: the EA considers the need for a statement of special educational needs; if appropriate, it makes a statement and arranges, monitors and reviews provision.

If a child in your school is statemented, your school may be able to access funding to support them. Schools can make a request for assessment by contacting their regional EA office.

Find out more about SEN

The Department of Education in Northern Ireland have produced a comprehensive resource instructing schools on how to support children with SEN, which you may find useful.

What schools can do

  • Create a whole-school environment emphasising inclusion and cooperation.
  • Have high aspirations for all children.
  • Deliver social and emotional skills programmes which aim to build resilience:
    • With an Individual Education Plan, that builds skills step-by-step to improve success and gives children a chance to test skills out and receive encouragement and feedback.
  • Develop children’s understanding of difference and ensure all children value difference in others.
    • Inclusiveness can be developed through good quality PD&MU lessons promoting relationships and diversity.
  • Support children with SEN to feel accepted and to belong.
  • Tackle bullying and discrimination.
  • See children as a whole rather than focusing just on their disability or illness.
  • Be alert to early signs of escalating risk to mental healthand mobilise protective factors to prevent further escalation.
  • Provide children with extra support, if needed (e.g. through pastoral care/school counselling, school nurses or through referral to community-based support.

More information on children with special educational needs and disability

Autistic spectrum



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