Education Committee Take Evidence on SEND Bill

After a lengthy Inquiry, lasting almost a year, and including 25 evidence sessions and around 100 written submissions, the Committee for Education this week considered its draft report on its inquiry into Shared and Integrated Education.
The Inquiry sought to review the nature and definition of Shared Education and Integrated Education across all educational phases and the final report which is due to be published in September 2015 will make a number of important recommendations to the Department. You can read all written submissions to the Committee here.
This week also saw the continuation of the Committee Stage of the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Bill. Members heard wide ranging evidence from the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY); teaching unions: Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) / National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT); and Autism NI.

NICCY highlighted a number of concerns namely what they see as the: inadequate interagency working in respect of Special Educational Need provision; the absence of support for children with SEN undergoing educational transitions; the absence of provisions relating to the placement of SEN children in Early Years settings; the lengthy delay in respect of the formulation of the Department’s proposals; and the absence of sight of the draft regulations and draft Code of Practice. You can access NICCY’s full written submission here and/or watch their evidence session in full below:

INTO argued that the content of the Bill is significantly less than they expected and lacked reference to: how inclusion (of SEN children in mainstream schools) was to be promoted; improving co-operation between Education and Health and Social Care agencies; reducing bureaucracy; provision of support and advice for teachers; the role of pre-school in early intervention. INTO concluded that they felt that while the levels of responsibility for schools, Boards of Governors, principals and teachers were increased by the Bill there appeared to be no commitment to improve support for Children with Special Educational Needs. You can access INTO’s written submission here and/or watch their joint evidence session with NASUWT in full below.
NASUWT highlighted what they considered to be the lack of detail provided by the Department in respect of the planned replacement of SEN statements with Co-ordinated Support Plans and the absence of assurances relating to previously mentioned concerns relating to increased delegation of SEN funding to schools. NASUWT also discussed what they viewed as  the absence of SEN workforce planning and a failure to recognise the unmanageability and bureaucratic nature of existing SEN provision. They also indicated that they believed that the Department’s decision not to publish the related draft regulations and revised SEN Code of Practice amounted to an unacceptable approach to important policy development and greatly impeded NASUWT’s analysis of the SEND Bill. You can access NASUWT’s written submission here and/or watch their joint evidence session with INTO in full below:

Representatives from Autism NI generally welcomed the Bill and supported the involvement of children in decision-making. They also called for appropriate resources to be put in place in order to ensure that children can participate effectively and equally. You can access Autism NI’s written submission here and/or watch their evidence in full below:

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