Special Education

Special needs education is the educational arrangements that are put in place for children with disabilities. Not all children with disabilities have special education needs.

You are a person with special educational needs if your capacity to participate in and benefit from education is restricted due to an enduring physical, sensory, mental health or learning disability.

The Department of Education's policy is to provide special needs education in mainstream settings as far as possible. The Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 (pdf) provides that children are to be educated in an inclusive setting unless this would not be in the best interests of the child or the effective provision of education for other children in mainstream education. You can find out more about ‘The law on special needs education’ below.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has published an information booklet for parents, Children with Special Educational Needs (pdf).

You can read more about school admission for students with special education needs.

Children with special educational needs may be in ordinary classes in mainstream primary schools or in special classes in these schools. They may get additional educational support from special education teachers and care support from special needs assistants (SNAs).

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SENCO

The school SENCO plans, co-ordinates and reviews the provision of additional education supports to schools that enrol students with special educational needs in line with Department of Education policy.

SENOs support parents and guardians by providing information, establishing special classes and engaging with other professionals working with your child.

SENOs advise and support parents around the availability of special classes, special schools and other educational supports.

SENOs process Transport and Assistive Technology applications and forward to the Department of Education for sanction.

SENOs provide parents with advice and useful tips on transition from preschool to school from primary school to post primary school and onto adult services. Click here for more information.

National Council for Special Education - Working to deliver a better special education service

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Special needs assistants

Special needs assistants (SNAs) are allocated to schools to work with children who have specific care needs. They provide non-teaching care support. SNAs support pupils who have care needs resulting from a disability, behavioural difficulties or a significant medical issue. This might include a significant impairment of physical or sensory function or where their behaviour makes them a danger to themselves or other pupils. A pupil's needs could range from needing an assistant for a few hours each week (for example, to help feed or change or bring them to the toilet) to requiring a full-time assistant.

SNAs may work with more than one child and can also work on a part-time basis. The Department provides more information about the Special Needs Assistants Scheme in Circular 0030/2014.

It was announced in May 2021, that the introduction of the frontloaded Allocation Model for Special Needs Assistants for students in mainstream classes in primary and post-primary schools will be deferred to the 2022-2023 school year.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has published an information booklet for parents, Children with Special Educational Needs (pdf).

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