General Information

Children do not all learn at the same rate or pace. Some children and young people need extra help at school because they find it harder to learn than other people of their age, or because they have a disability that makes it more difficult for them to learn.

What is a Special Educational Need (SEN)?

A Special Educational Need is defined as a learning difficulty which calls for special educational provision to be made.

What is a Learning difficulty? A child or young person has a learning difficulty if they have a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of children of their age and/or has a disability which either prevents or hinders them from making use of educational facilities generally provided for children of their age in mainstream schools.

What is Special Educational Provision? Educational provision which is additional to, or otherwise different from the educational provision made generally for children or young person of the same age in mainstream schools.

What are the SEN and Medical Categories?

The Department of Education (DE) requires common special educational needs (SEN) categories in order to provide accurate information about the numbers of children and young people in Northern Ireland with different types of SEN for whom special educational provision is being made.

It is the school’s decision to place a child on the SEN Register. Pupils with SEN may have more than one type of need. A pupil on the SEN Register has a special educational need that requires special educational provision to be made for them. Children or young people not on the SEN Register have their learning needs met through whole school educational provision which includes differentiation and reasonable adjustments.

If a pupil has a medical need, this is recorded on the school’s medical register. Teachers or educational psychologists are not qualified to diagnose medical conditions. Schools will add a pupil to the medical register based on information provided by their parents or carers or from a Health and Social Care Trust (HSCT).

A pupil can be recorded on the SEN Register and the Medical Register if they have both a medical need and require special educational provision.

The DE website has information and guidance for SEN and Medical Categories.

What is the SEN Register?

If a school thinks that a child or young person needs special educational provision, they will be recorded on the SEN Register.

The school will meet with parents and carers to discuss the child’s needs and share targets included on their Individual Education Plan (IEP) or Personal Learning Plan (PLP). Teaching staff will also discuss what parents or carers can do to help with your child’s learning and development.

Only the school can decide if a child should be placed on the SEN Register, based on the evidence of how each child presents in the classroom. The school will also take into account any additional information provided by parents or carers and other educational or health professionals.

What to do if you are worried that your child may have Special Educational Needs (SEN)

Children do not all learn at the same rate or pace. Some may have difficulties with aspects of their learning from time to time but not all children with learning difficulties will have a Special Educational Need.

If you are worried about your child’s progress, contact their class or form teacher who will arrange a time to meet with you. The teacher will explain how your child is getting on in school and, if needed, will address any concerns you may have. They will also advise you on how you can help your child at home.

If, after a period of observation, the teacher thinks that additional provision in school is needed for your child, they will contact you and arrange a meeting to discuss this with you.

Schools have clear processes for identifying and assessing children with Special Educational Needs. Staff will strive to ensure that your child’s needs are fully met whether they have learning difficulties or SEN.

Your role as a Parent or Carer

As a parent or carer, you know your child better than anyone else. You hold key information and therefore have an important role to play in supporting their education. You have unique knowledge and experience to contribute to the shared view of your child’s needs. You will be able to provide valuable input to the best way to support them with their learning and development both at home and in school.

Open and honest communication

The school will make time to listen to concerns that you may have about your child and will offer advice and support if needed. They will involve you and your child in decisions and will ask your permission if other professionals may become involved in supporting or assessing your child.

Your child’s views are important

There is a statutory duty on the Education Authority to seek and have regard to the views of the child and young person.  They will have a unique view of their own needs and capabilities and have their own opinions about the sort of support they need to help them reach their potential. Your child’s school should ensure that they will be listened to and that their views will be valued and responded. 

Who we work with

The Education Authority works with a wide range of partners to support children and young people with Special Educational Needs or Disabilities. Some of the key partnerships include:

  • EA Child Protection Support Service
  • EA Education Welfare Service
  • EA Educational Psychology
  • EA SEND Pupil Support Services
  • EA Statutory Assessment and Review Service
  • Advocacy/Support Groups
  • Parents and Carers
  • Health and Social Care Trust Allied Health Professionals
  • Community Paediatrics
  • Social Services
  • Public Health Agency
  • Department of Education
  • Schools
  • University Research Partnerships

Similar content

  • How to access Language and Communication Support

    We can support children and young people with or without a Statement of Special Educational Needs.
  • Training

    The Children and Young People’s Services Training Programme for 2022 – 2023 offers a bespoke range of specialist trainings for education professionals and parents.
  • Useful Links - Autism

    Information and resources for school staff and parents in supporting children and young people.