Children and parents at the forefront as Education Minister launches consultation on Special Educational Needs

Date published: 30 September 2020

Education Minister Peter Weir today launched a public consultation which will improve the provision of education for children and young people with Special Educational Needs (SEN).

Minister Peter Weir

The Minister has also announced funding of £7.5m to deliver a new SEN framework which will provide additional resources for schools.

Launching the consultation, Education Minister Peter Weir said: “Children and young people with special educational needs are among the most vulnerable in our society.

“I am determined to improve the current system of special educational provision and support pupils with SEN to meet their full potential.  I want to ensure that parents and children have access to an effective system that is accountable and meets their needs in a more straightforward and responsive way.”

Proposed changes to the current system will include a defined period in which assessments must be carried out and decisions implemented. Children and parents will also have new rights that will ensure services meet their needs. The Education Authority will be required to publish an annual plan of arrangements for SEN provision and each child with SEN will be required to have a Personal Learning Plan (PLP).

The Minister added: “I encourage all those with an interest in this important area to provide their views and contribute to the consultation. I reiterate my thanks to all those who have played a role in helping the Department to develop aspects of the new SEN Framework.”

Attending the launch at Tullygally Primary School in Craigavon, the Minister continued: “Today’s announcement is a significant investment to support SEN identification and provision.

“Support for pupils with SEN is a vital and valued service, and it is important to ensure that this support is sustainable and can produce lasting outcomes for our pupils.

“Schools are under pressure and I acknowledge that implementation of a new SEN Framework will have an additional resourcing impact for schools.  In recognition of this, I am therefore announcing a further £7.5m to be made available to schools for the 2020/21 year for the period January to March 2021.”

The consultation, which includes new draft Regulations and Code of Practice, will provide more detail on rights for parents and children and will provide schools with clear and practical guidance on identifying and supporting children with SEN.

The 12 week public consultation is open until 22 December and is available to access on the department’s website.

Notes to editors: 

  1. The new SEN Framework consists of three key elements: the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 (the 2016 SEND Act); new SEN Regulations; and a new Code of Practice.
  2. The new draft SEN Regulations will replace the 2005 Regulations and covers a range of areas. They are based on the powers available to the Department under the Education (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 (the 1996 Order) and the 2016 SEND Act.
  3. The new Code will replace the 1998 version and the 2005 supplement.
  4. The 2016 Act will require each school to have a Learning Support Co-ordinator (LSC), the new name for a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator and each child with SEN to have a PLP. The Act, when it is commenced, will place a new legal requirement for all grant-aided schools (Statutory Nursery schools, Primary, Post-Primary and Special Schools) to have a LSC.
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