Special educational needs: a step-by-step approach

If your child has special educational needs, all those involved in their education will take a step-by-step approach to meeting their needs. Your child's teachers will use a code of practice as a guide.

Special educational needs and schools

Schools, nurseries and playgroups will look out for children with special educational needs so they can help as soon as possible. Most children can have their needs met in a mainstream school.

Once it has been decided that your child has special needs, teachers will plan their education taking account of the guidance given in the code of practice.

You can read a summary of the code in the booklet, 'Special Educational Needs: a guide for parents and carers', available on the Department of Education website:

A step-by-step approach

Children learn in different ways and can have different levels of need. A school may find it necessary to bring in specialist expertise to help with the problems a child might have.

This approach is set out in the code of practice. A school must tell you if they start giving special help to your child.

This is called school action and could be:

  • a different way of teaching certain things
  • some extra help from an adult
  • using equipment like a computer or special desk

Your child may need help for a short time or over many years. You should be consulted at every step and be told about your child's progress.

Individual Education Plans

Your child's teacher is responsible for working with your child on a day-to-day and may write how they are helping in an individual education plan.

This might include:

  • what special or additional help is being given
  • who will provide the help and how often
  • what help you can give your child at home
  • your child's targets
  • how and when progress will be checked

Some schools will record how they are meeting your child's needs in a different way, perhaps as part of their lesson plans.

If your child does not make enough progress

If your child does not make enough progress in their special education, their teacher should talk to you about advice from people outside the school. These could include a specialist teacher or a speech and language therapist.

If the school still cannot give your child all the help they need, you or a professional who has worked with your child can ask for a 'statutory assessment' - a detailed report on their special educational needs and what special help is needed.

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