What details should be included in a statement of special educational needs?

Complete, clear, thorough statements are required by law. A statement which is not properly detailed does not comply with the law. The more specific and detailed the statement is, the more easily it can be legally enforced if provision is not properly arranged or carried out by the Education Authority.

Part 1 of the statement sets out the child’s general details e.g. date of birth, parents details etc.

Part 2 of the statement sets out a description of the child’s special educational needs.

Part 3 sets out the special educational provision that will be made to meet these needs.

It is very important in order to create enforceable legal rights for the child that needs in Part 2 and the provision in Part 3 are clearly spelled out and are not open to more than one interpretation. For example, the words “an appropriate level of adult assistance” could mean 25 hours of help per week or 1 hour per week. This is not clear enough to ensure the provision is properly carried out. Instead, it is usually in the child’s interests to spell out the exact number of hours of classroom/adult assistance.

Similarly, if a child needs therapies to access education such as speech and language therapy or occupational therapy these should be listed as educational needs in Part 2 and clearly set out in Part 3 as educational provision. In practice therapies are often inserted into a section entitled “non-educational needs” so that the Education Authority is not responsible for arranging these. If the therapies have a direct impact on a child’s ability to learn, then they should be listed under “educational” needs and should be included in Parts 2 and 3 of the statement. This secures the provision for the child and ensures that it is legally enforceable.

The process of spelling out the exact provision for the child within Part 3 of the statement is called “specifying and quantifying”.

“Specifying” means stating what the provision will be e.g. classroom assistance.

“Quantifying” means saying how provision is guaranteed e.g. 25 hours per week.

If the statement is too vague, parents/carers can write to the Education Authority and request that the provision is specified and quantified on the statement. This will ensure that if the child does not receive the provision, the parent/carer can insist on provision as a specific legal right.

Parts 5 and 6 of the statement record non-educational needs and provision e.g. transport. Beware that therapies may be included in the non-educational section when in fact they are educational needs. In order for the Education Authority to be held legally responsible for making provision for a child, the therapies or other provision must be placed in Parts 2 and 3 of the child’s statement.

If you have any questions about the statementing assessment process you should contact the Children’s Law Centre on 08088085678 or email: info@childrenslawcentre.org for advice.

What is a statement of special educational needs?

A statement of special educational needs is a written document which should detail a child’s individual special educational needs and the specific provision which the Education Authority will arrange to meet those needs.

The contents of a statement are legally binding. The wording of the statement should be clear and thorough. Parent’s/carers have a right to be involved in the drafting of the statement and to seek amendments before it is made final.

This can be a complex process, contact the Children’s Law Centre on 08088085678 or email: info@childrenslawcentre.org for advice.