Independent Review of Special Education Needs

The Independent Review of Special Education Needs, commissioned by the Department, in response to Recommendation 2 of the PAC report on ‘Impact review of SEN’ has now commenced.

As set out in the PAC recommendation, the aim of the Review is to ‘understand whether SEN provision and processes are fit for purpose in terms of progress made by children, impact on children’s outcomes and whether services can be delivered more effectively and efficiently’.

The procurement exercise to appoint the external consultant has concluded with the appointment of Ipsos and the establishment of a DE led Steering Group to oversee the project over the next 6 months. This group comprises of representatives from the Education Authority, Department of Health along with officials from relevant policy areas within the Department.

What will the Review Cover?

The Review will include:

  1. An independent external evaluation of the work progressed so far under EA’s SEN and Disability (SEND) Strategic Development Programme (SDP);
  2. A review of the impact of classroom assistance on children’s outcomes;
  3. An external benchmarking exercise of SEN services with other jurisdictions;
  4. Research into the higher proportion of children with SEN in Northern Ireland compared to England; and
  5. An external review of funding of SEN services including the delegation of budgets.

In addition to these specific areas, it will also:

  • Identify and describe best international practice on SEN approaches, including evidenced and peer reviewed research on good practice and effective measures and approaches. Part of the research must reference societies that have successful approaches to SEN within a post-conflict context;
  • Provide an assessment of the effectiveness of SEN in NI in contrast with other models and to identify key gaps in provision/ areas for considered development; and
  • Develop and evaluate options and make specific recommendations to improve SEN provision across NI;

Stakeholder Engagement

A fundamental part of the Review is engagement with key stakeholders. Over the coming months the team will undertake an extensive engagement process with those at both a policy and operational level within the Department and Education Authority; arms lengths bodies; schools; parent/carers; pupils; special educational needs advocacy groups; and other interested parties.

Further updates in relation to the Review will be published as work progresses. In the meantime should you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact the team via

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