School Placements for children with Special Educational Needs (SEN)

Information on the SEN process, placements to date for September 2023 and advice for parents.

Information on the Statutory Assessment process

Identifying and securing appropriate placements for children follows the Statutory Assessment and Review process. Therefore, each child’s placement is managed on a case by case basis, to ensure a suitable placement is secured that will appropriately support and cater to their individual needs.

Recommendations for statutory assessments are received throughout the year which means that children may require a change of placement to best meet their needs at any point throughout the year.

Children are informed once their school placement has been finalised, rather than on a fixed date and are required to go through the regular admissions process until such times as a proposed statement may be produced.

Once a child’s statement is in place, it will be subject to an Annual Review to ensure that their needs are still being met and to consider if the provision made and the placement is still appropriate. This is an ongoing process which will occur through the year and there will always be children with a statement, at any point in time, who have a school place, who will require either a change of place or a change of support to more appropriately meet their needs.

Where a child hasn’t had any significant or complex needs identified through the statutory assessment process, in this instance no statement or note in lieu will be required.

**A note in lieu of a statement is issued when it is recognised that a child has SEN but their needs can be met within the resources normally available to a mainstream school.

Advice for parents and carers

Where a child has been assessed as requiring a specialist place through their statement of SEN, the Educational Psychologist will discuss provision with parents/carers during the assessment process. The SEN Link Officer will then seek preferences and permissions from parents/carers in order for EA to consult with an appropriate school or setting.

When this has been agreed with the school/setting, and parents/carers, a final statement of SEN will be issued. 

Parents/carers of children with a statement of SEN with any questions are encouraged to contact their Link Officer directly or the SEN Helpline which is open Monday – Friday from 9am – 5pm on 028 9598 5960. Further information is available on our website.  

We want to acknowledge the patience and understanding of the families. We will do everything possible to ensure all children are placed with the support that they need to be happy, learning and succeeding.

Information on SEN placements to date for September 2023

Supporting children with SEN and ensuring all children with statements receive a placement which fully meets their needs remains a top priority for the Education Authority (EA). 

As of 5 September – 99.9% of children in transition years (new nursery, nursery to P1 and P7 to Year 8) have been placed to date.

On the 1 July this year the EA had placed an additional 1,158 pupils across all years with a statement of Special Educational Needs compared to the same period in 2022.

Additional Capacity

Despite the unprecedented financial challenges, the Department of Education and EA has already committed a significant amount of investment to increasing capacity and creating additional places for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

A dedicated cross-directorate team was set up in 2020 to focus on enhancing the capacity across the education system.

Since 2021 – a total of 340 additional specialist classes have been established in Mainstream and Special schools.

  • In 2021/22 and 2022/23, EA increased capacity in Special Schools by 111 classrooms and established 101 new classes within mainstream schools.  
  • For September 2023, EA established a further 95 new specialist classes in mainstream schools, 22 of which are for pupils with severe learning difficulties to support the demand for special school places. 
  • In addition, 21 classes in Special Schools and 12 satellite classes linked to Special Schools have been established and will be operational for the 2023/24 academic year. 

In addition, we are delighted to have established a Path Finder Project for 2023/4 for the delivery of pre-school education within the community, voluntary and private sector for children requiring specialist placement.

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