Department of Education of Ireland

04/15/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 04/15/2024 09:37

Ministers Foley and Naughton announce revised assessment of need process for schools

Minister for Education Norma Foley, TD, and Minister for Special Education and Inclusion, Hildegarde Naughton, TD, today (Monday) announced a revised assessment of need process for schools.

This revised process has been developed on foot of a recent High Court judgement which found that teachers have the appropriate expertise to be nominated by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) to assess a child's educational needs.

The overall responsibility for the assessment of needs process for children rests with the HSE and teachers' assessments of a child's educational needs form only one part of the process.

The revised process has been developed following a detailed review of the High Court judgement to ensure that any updated process would comply with the findings of the Court. The department and the NSCE have engaged extensively with education stakeholders to outline how the revised process can meet both the educational needs of the children concerned and the requirements to comply with the Disability Act 2005.

The department and NCSE have put in place a range of measures to support schools who are undertaking the educational component of assessment of need. This includes guidance documents and email and phone support.

In cases where schools experience a larger number of assessment of need referrals, additional assessment of need support hours will be allocated to those schools. These will be provided automatically to the schools affected each quarter in arrears.

Minister Foley said:

"My main concern as Minister is to ensure that all children, including those with special educational needs, are provided for in our schools. While responsibility for the assessment of need process lies with the HSE, the recent High Court judgement confirmed that schools have an important role to play and that teachers are appropriately qualified to assess educational needs.

"The judgement acknowledges that teachers have substantial and relevant information on children and young people in their classes. This information, derived from assessment practices and professional insights, will form part of the overall picture in relation to the child's needs.

"There has been extensive engagement with education stakeholders in updating the revised process and I would like to encourage schools to continue to work with the Department and NCSE in completing these assessments which children are entitled to access under the Disability Act."

Minister Naughton said:

"We know that schools are busy places. Principals and teachers work hard to meet the needs of the children and young people in their schools. What we want to do is to provide them, to the best extent possible, with the resources and supports necessary for them to continue doing this critical work.

"I'm pleased to note, therefore, that the NCSE has put in place a range of supports for schools where they receive an assessment of need request including email and phone support as well as guidance materials and access to an NCSE advisor. Where schools receive large numbers of assessment of need requests, they will also be able to avail of additional teaching hours.

"Equally, however, it's important to ensure that we monitor the impact of this work on schools. I welcome, therefore, the department's commitment to regularly review the assessment of need process so that we can ensure they have the appropriate and necessary supports."

Notes for Editors

  • Assessment of need is a statutory process under the Disability Act (2005).
  • The Health Service Executive is responsible for the assessment of need process. The Assessment of Need process is a HSE led process. The Disability Act 2005 outlines the legal responsibility for the assessment of need process which lies with the HSE. Within the Disability Act, the NCSE has a statutory obligation to nominate 'appropriate persons' to assist the HSE in the assessment of need process.
  • The assessment of need process requires an Assessment Officer, working for the HSE, to determine the health and education needs of an assessment of need applicant.
  • If an Assessment Officer forms the opinion there may be a need for an education service to be provided, the NCSE has a statutory obligation to nominate 'appropriate persons' to assist the HSE in the assessment of need process.
  • The Department of Education is satisfied that teachers are suitably qualified and therefore 'appropriate persons' to be nominated by the NCSE, as appropriate, to assist the HSE in the assessment of need process.
  • Teachers are suitably qualified to assist in the assessment of need process due to their expertise and professional judgement and this position has been upheld in a recent court judgement. One of the functions of a school, as detailed in the Education Act (1998), is to ensure that the education needs of all children/young people, including those with a disability or other special educational needs, are identified and provided for. Further, the EPSEN Act (2004) requires schools to cooperate with the National Council for Special Education in the performance by the Council of its functions. Therefore, schools are required to complete the Report of Education Needs in order to meet this requirement.
  • Teachers can use their professional knowledge and experience of working with the child/young person to identify educational needs and may use any information known to them in identifying the child/young person's education needs including any relevant available reports.
  • Teacher recommendations in respect of education services for children/young people on whom they are reporting, need not be restricted to those services which are available in their school. Examples of services might include placement in a special class or special school, access to assistive technology, a psychologist, a speech or occupational therapist or access to a Special Needs Assistant. This is not an exhaustive list. The Report of Education Needs completed by teachers will be used by the Assessment Officer as part of the HSE assessment of need
  • The assessment of the educational needs of a child in a school can be carried out by the school principal/deputy principal, or a teacher nominated by the school principal who is familiar with the student (e.g.Class/Subject Teacher, Special Education Teacher).
  • This HSE Assessment of Need is to be carried out without regard to the cost of, or the capacity to provide any services considered necessary to meet the child/young person's needs as per Section 8(5) of the Disability Act 2005. It is a 'gold standard' assessment. As such, teachers should identify any education services they believe are appropriate to address the education needs of the child/young person.
  • In finalising the assessment of need report, the Assessment Officer in the HSE is required to make a professional judgement based on all of the information available to them, including that provided by the teacher.
  • It is estimated that on average there are 6,000 to 7,000 requests for assessments of need each year. The latest available data suggests 70 per cent relate to school age children. The breakdown by sector is 88 per cent primary and 12 per cent post primary. When spread across all 4,000 primary and post primary schools this should equate to a small number of referrals to individual schools.
  • In cases where schools experience a larger number of assessment of need referrals, additional assessment of need support hours will be allocated to those schools.
  • A primary school that receives more than five assessment of need referrals for students per term will get five assessment of need support hours. Primary schools that receive more than 15 assessment of need referrals will get ten assessment of need support hours
  • A post-primary school that receives more than five assessment of need referrals for students per term will get six assessment of need support hours. Post-primary schools that receive more than 15 assessment of need referrals will get 12 assessment of need support hours.