Special educational needs: assessments

If a mainstream school cannot provide all the help your child needs, the Education Authority (EA) in your region may carry out an assessment to find out what your child's special educational needs are and how they can be supported.

Getting help

The law says that all grant aided schools must do their best to meet special educational needs, sometimes with the help of outside specialists.

For more information on this type of basic help see:


If your child still does not seem to be making progress or needs a lot of extra help, the EA in your region may decide to carry out a more detailed assessment of their needs based on specialist advice.

This aims to find out exactly what your child's needs are and what special help they need. It is only necessary if your child's school setting cannot provide all the help they need.

You can ask for an assessment for your child and so can your child's school. If the school wants to ask the EA to carry out an assessment, they should always talk to you first.

If you would like to contact the EA, it's best to talk to your child's school first.

The assessment process

The EA looks at requests and must tell you normally within six weeks whether they will carry out an assessment. They also explain the process.

If the assessment goes ahead, the EA asks people to give their views on your child.

They ask for advice from:

  • you
  • your child's school
  • an educational psychologist
  • a doctor
  • social services
  • anyone else the EA thinks might help to get a clear picture of your child's needs

You can go to any interview, medical or other test. You know your child best so your views are important. What your child thinks also plays a big part in the assessment.

You are free to suggest any other groups you know whose views may be helpful. The EA should take them into account as part of the assessment.

You may want to think about asking:

  • voluntary organisations working with children
  • other parent support groups

After the assessment

Once officers have completed their assessment, they decide whether to write down all the information they have collected in a statement of special education needs. The EA usually tells you if it is going to write a statement within 12 weeks of beginning the assessment.

If the EA decides not to write a statement, it will explain the reasons and tell you how it thinks your child's needs should be met in school or in other ways.

If the EA decides not to assess

If the EA in your region decides not to assess your child, it must write and tell you and the school its reasons. If you or your child's school still feel that more needs to be done, talk to the school.

The EA could think about other ways of helping your child, including getting in some outside help.

It should tell you about local arrangements for sorting out any disagreement informally and how long it should take. You also have a right to appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal, an independent organisation.

It is important that you begin any appeal to the tribunal within the time limit as your appeal could be refused if you are late.


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