First step taken to speed up Special Educational Needs assessment process

Date published: 30 September 2016

A proposal to accelerate the start of the statutory assessment process for pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN) has come into operation today.

The first Commencement Order of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 allows the Education Authority to proceed with the statutory assessment process for pupils with SEN in 22 days – or sooner with parental consent – rather than 29 days as at present.

Education Minister, Peter Weir said:

“The new provision will benefit children with special educational needs and their parents as it will go some way to reducing the length of the statutory assessment process.

“This can be a stressful time for parents and it is important that the Department and the Education Authority make every effort to ensure the process is carried out quickly and efficiently.”

Currently when the EA receives a referral for a statutory assessment, parents are notified and asked for any representations or written evidence. The parent has 29 days to respond.

Peter Weir continued:

“Previously, even if parents responded within 29 days the Education Authority had to wait the full 29 days before proceeding to the next stage of the process. Evidence gathered from the former Education and Library Boards indicated that most parents who respond do so within 22 days.

“By making this Order the EA will be able to continue with the process as soon as a parental response is received rather than wait for the full response period to pass.  This will save valuable time at the beginning of the process and is good news for parents and children.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. The remaining provisions of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 (called the SEND Act 2016) also require Commencement Orders to be made to bring them into operation.The majority of the provisions relate to the new Special Educational Needs (SEN) Framework and will be commenced together to coincide with its introduction which is expected around September 2017.
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  4. Media enquiries to the Department of Education Press Office Tel: 028 9127 9207. Out of office hours, contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 99 715 440, and your call will be returned.

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