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Special Education, Legislation

Special educational needs is defined in the Education (N Ireland) Order 1996 as meaning that a child has a learning difficulty or a disability which calls for special educational provision to be made available.


The law says that a child has special educational needs if he or she has a greater difficulty in learning than the majority of children of the same age, or has a disability which makes it difficult for the child to use the same facilities as other children. The 1996 Order provides for Boards to assess a child who has special educational needs. Following this assessment the Board may decide to prepare a report. This is called a Statement of Special Educational Needs. The Board has to make provision to meet the child's needs as outlined in the statement.


A statutory assessment is a multi-disciplinary assessment of a child's needs to decide if a statement of special educational needs is required. The process requires the Board to seek parental, educational, medical, psychological and social services advice, together with any other advice which may be considered desirable. Parents will be informed of the name of a Board officer who will be available to offer help and support during the process. Advice is also available from a range of voluntary organisations.


A statement of special educational needs is a document that sets out the child's needs and the special help that will be provided to help meet those needs. The protection of a statement will be afforded to children whose needs are such that resources additional to, or different from those normally available in mainstream schools must be allocated. The Code of Practice on the Identification and Assessment of Special Educational Needs indicates that approximately 2% of children will have such needs. To decide if a statement is necessary the Board may carry out a statutory assessment.


The relevant legislation for Special Educational needs and provision is :-

The Education (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 S.I. 1996 No. 274 (N.I. 1)


The Special Education Needs and Disability (Northern Ireland) Order 2005 S.I. 2005 No. 1117 (N.I. 6)


The Education (Special Educational Needs) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2005 S.R. 2005 No. 384


The Education (Special Educational Needs) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1997 S.R. 1997 No. 327
(where the assessment process commenced before 1st september 2005)


The Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2005 S.R. 2005 No. 339


The Special Educational Needs Tribunal Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1997 S.R. 1997 No. 315

Note: S.I. means a "Statutory Instrument" and S.R. means a "Statutory Rule")