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First steps to speed up special educational needs assessment process

A proposal to accelerate the start of the statutory assessment process for pupils with special educational needs will come into operation this week.

The first Commencement Order of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 allows the Education Authority  to proceed with the statutory assessment process for pupils with SEN in 22 days – or sooner with parental consent – rather than 29 days at present.

Education Minister Peter Weir said it will benefit children and parents as it will go some way to reducing the length of the statutory assessment process.

“This can be a stressful time for parents and it is important that the Department and the Education Authority make every effort to ensure the process is carried out quickly and efficiently,” he said.

Currently when the Education Authority receives a referral for a statutory assessment, parents are notified and asked for any representations or written evidence.

The parent has 29 days to respond.

Mr Weir added: “Previously, even if parents responded within 29 days, the Education Authority had to wait the full 29 days before proceeding to the next stage of the process.

“Evidence gathered from the former Education and Library Boards indicated that most parents who respond do so within 22 days.

“By making this Order, the Education Authority will be able to continue with the process as soon as a parental response is received rather than wait for the full response period to pass.

“This will save valuable time at the beginning of the process and is good news for parents and children.”

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