There are four elements to the new framework:

  1. Primary Legislation - Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (Northern Ireland) 2016
  2. Secondary Legislation - New SEN Regulations
  3. Guidance - a new statutory Code of Practice
  4. SEN capacity building (training) on the new SEN framework

1. Special Educational Needs and Disability Act ( Northern Ireland) 2016 (SEND Act)

The SEND Act is the first building block in the new SEN Framework, and it received Royal Assent in March 2016.  The Act places new duties on Boards of Governors, the Education Authority (EA) and health and social services authorities, and provides new rights for parents and children over compulsory school age.

The EA will be required to publish an annual plan of its arrangements for special educational provision.  They will also have to seek and have regard to the views of the child when making decisions on special educational provision.  The EA will have to put in place an independent dispute avoidance and resolution service, and independent mediation arrangements.

Boards of Governors will be required to ensure a Learning Support Coordinator is appointed within each school to coordinate provision for children with SEN.  The school will be required to complete and review a personal learning plan for each pupil with SEN and ensure that this plan is transferred when a child moves from one grant aided school to another.

The Act also provides for increased cooperation between the EA and health and social services authorities to provide services identified to be of benefit in addressing a child's SEN.

2. New SEN Regulations

The draft SEN Regulations are currently going through the Northern Ireland Assembly Affirmative Resolution Process.  Once finalised they will provide a strengthened legislative base for delivering a more responsive and effective SEN framework. Targeted stakeholder engagement and a public consultation was held in 2016 on the draft SEN Regulations. Documents relating to the draft SEN Regulations, including the summary report, can be downloaded from the Regulations consultation page.

3. New SEN Code of Practice

This will be key in providing clear and practical guidance to schools, the EA and others in the identification and assessment of children who have, or may have, SEN.  It will support them in ensuring the right SEN provision is given to help each child fulfil their potential.  The Department of Education (DE) will carry out targeted stakeholder engagement and a public consultation to establish views on the draft code.

4. SEN Capacity Building (training) on the new SEN framework

This will provide SEN capacity building training to learning support coordinators, principals , teachers, other school staff, Boards of Governors and the EA on the new SEN framework.

Implementation of the new SEN Framework is anticipated to be in 2019.

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