RMDS policy on the Management of Special Educational Needs 2014 (review)

This policy on the management of Special Educational Needs (SEN) here in Ranelagh Multi Denominational School (RMDS) was updated in 2014 by Joan Whelan, in consultation with the Board of Management and the staff. It draws from The Education Act (1998), Equal Status Act (2000), The Learning Support Guidelines (2000), The Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act (EPSEN) 2004 and other relevant Department of Education and Skills circulars, specifically 07/02, 08/02, 24/03, 09/04, 13/04, 01/05, 02/05 and 0030/2014. This policy contains the following elements:
1. Relationship to characteristic spirit (ethos ) of RMDS
2. Aim
3. Definition of Special Educational Needs (SEN)
4. Key principles
5. Enrolment of children with identified special educational needs
6. Provision for children with emerging special educational needs (The Staged Approach)
7. Roles and responsibilities
8. Intervention
9. Resources
10. Professional Development
11. Related policies
12. Success criteria
13. Implementation and Review
14. Ratification and communication
15. Appendices

1. Relationship to the characteristic spirit of the school

RMDS is committed to the fullest participation possible of all the children in the school in all aspects of school life - in the classroom, in the playground and in extra-curricular activities. RMDS is committed to a vision of child-centeredness which places the needs of each child at the centre of our learning community.
The ethos statement of this school is clear that all children whatever their background, race, gender, abilities, are welcome in the school, subject to that being in the best interests of the child and his or her peers. That position is protected by law and fits with the wishes of parents in general that their children should be educated locally, in a school of their choice. RMDS is committed to using best endeavour to manage the resources available to the school to help all the children in the school to reach their full potential.
Thus the Enrolment Policy of RMDS provides for equality of access and participation in the school for all children in our community, whatever their social, religious, cultural and racial backgrounds and whether or not they have a disability or special education need. See enrolment policy.

2. Aim

The aim of SEN provision in RMDS is to enable pupils with SEN to achieve optimal levels of proficiency in all areas of the curriculum, in line with their ability and stage of development and to share with their peers as full as educational experience as possible. Through the implementation of this policy, we strive to:

  • Facilitate pupils to participate in the full curriculum for their class level
  • Develop positive self esteem and positive attitudes to school and learning
  • Enable pupils to monitor their own learning and become independent learners in line with their ability and developmental level
  • Involve parents in supporting their children’s learning
  • Promote collaboration between school staff, parents and other professionals

3. What are Special Education Needs?

A ‘Special Education Need’ as defined in the Education Act 1998 includes children with a disability as well as those that are exceptionally able (gifted). Additional staffing (such as access to a resource teacher and / or a Special Needs Assistant) and resources (such as funding for computers and software and other physical aids) as well as care supports may be provided to schools to help support children with special educational needs.
The kinds of special educational needs catered for in mainstream schools are diverse and may include physical disability, hearing impairment, visual impairment, emotional disturbance and / or behavioural problems, general learning disability, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Specific Learning Disability, children with special educational needs arising from an assessed syndrome such as Down Syndrome, children with Speech and Language difficulties and certain medical conditions.
Some children come to school with a defined ‘Special Need’ and additional supports, including care supports, in place. For others, the process begins in school – this is particularly true of general learning difficulties and emotional and behavioural problems. Exceptionally able or gifted children may also fall into this category. The term exceptionally able or ‘gifted’ is used to describe students who have been identified as requiring enrichment and extension opportunities outside of the regular curriculum for their age group. This includes children who may display a gift or talent in a certain area, for example general intellectual ability or a specific academic or creative or sporting ability.
Another group of children may experience a temporary period of vulnerability following bereavement, family stress, bullying or for a variety of other reasons. The school must be responsive to these social and emotional and behavioural needs until they pass. Support is also available to children for whom English is not their first language. Certain children also benefit from an exemption from Gaeilge. See policy on exemption from Gaeilge.

4. Key principles

4.1 Whole- School Approach
In RMDS we operate a collaborative team approach. We see the child’s journey through the school as a process which involves input from everyone to one degree or another. We are committed to promoting partnership and collaboration between all the stakeholders in the school, staff, parents and pupils, the Board of Management, the Executive Committee (Patron body) and the Parents Association. In real terms this is evidenced through the following practices in RMDS:

  • Excellent two-way collaboration and consultation between parents, staff and other professionals
  • A clear understanding of the school policies and practices by all
  • Regular SEN team meetings chaired by the principal. The SEN team comprises the principal, deputy principal and resource teachers
  • Regular meetings with the SNA team, chaired by the principal
  • There is a standing item, SEN, on all staff meeting agendas
  • There is a standing item, SEN, on the principal’s report to the Board of Management
  • Regular meetings between class teachers, resource teachers and SNAs

4.2 An inclusive approach

An inclusive school is one in which the teaching and learning achievements, attitudes, and well being of every child matters. An inclusive school values and welcomes diversity and strives to eradicate barriers to learning and participation for all. This expectation is explicit in the Learning Support Guidelines (DES, 2000). The challenge of being an inclusive school is set within the wider context of overall school effectiveness and the process of school self evaluation and school improvement. Inclusive practice is a complex process that involves:

  • An appropriate curriculum for every child
  • High quality teaching
  • Clearly understood codes of behaviour and assessment
  • Excellent classroom management
  • Individual Education Plans (IEPs) or Group Education plans (GEPs), where appropriate, drawn up in consultation with parents, teachers, SNA’s and other professionals working within the school’s policies
  • The further reduction of the pupil / teacher ratio, additional resource supports and the further expansion of the available professional services (e.g. psychological services, speech and language, occupational therapy, professional development) is also relevant to providing an optimum education in an inclusive setting for all children

4.3 Prevention of learning difficulties

RMDS is committed to the idea of a preventative approach to learning problems. We aim to create a learning environment in the mainstream classroom to respond to the learning needs of all children. This includes the learning needs of very able children. Key prevention strategies include:

  • A strong oral language programme for all pupils
  • A structured approach to phonological awareness (see policy)
  • A structured approach to emergent writing
  • Access to a variety of reading material in the class, school and at home
  • Use of concrete material in mathematics in all classes
  • Close liaison with parents / guardians
  • Differentiation strategies, which is adapting the curriculum and teaching approaches to suit all learners
  • The use of a wide variety of teaching methodologies
  • Each year as part of the ‘watch list’ we review all classes under the heading of ‘exceptionally able’. Key methods for identification include teacher observation, parent views and identification by psychologists

4.4 Early Intervention

Early intervention is a vital component of the SEN provision in this school, caseload permitting. Early intervention programmes may be provided by the class teacher and / or by the SEN teacher, in accordance with the Staged Approach, outlined in Circular 02/05. Close collaboration and consultation between the class teachers and the SEN teacher will identify pupils who may be in need of early intervention. Teacher observation and professional opinion, as well as diagnostic assessment will be given due consideration in the selection of pupils for early intervention.

This principle is included in order to ensure that we identify potential problems in literacy and numeracy as early as possible in order to enable pupils to achieve adequate levels of proficiency before leaving the school. Timely and appropriate intervention for children with social and emotional and behavioural problems is also facilitated under this heading. The SPHE and the Core Curriculum programmes are important in this regard. See Assessment policy.

4.5 Direct resources towards pupils with the greatest need

Following the completion of the standard testing progamme in May, the principal meets with the resource team and the deputy principal to draw up a ‘watch list’ for the coming year. Following this meeting, the resource team consults with the class teachers to ensure that all children who need to be included are included. Available places will be offered in the following manner, bearing in mind that the DES guidelines recommend that priority be given to English:-

  • Children with diagnosed low incidence disability
  • Children scoring below the 10th percentile in English
  • Children scoring below the 10th percentile in Maths
  • Children scoring between the 10th and the 14th in English
  • Children who are functioning in the average range but have been diagnosed with Specific Learning difficulties (Dyslexia)
  • Children scoring between the 10th and the 14th in Maths
  • Children who have completed a Stage One process and for whom improvement has not been achieved and who have undergone further diagnostic testing, the results of which show that supplementary teaching would be beneficial
  • High achieving children whose learning needs are not being fully addressed in the regular classroom

A waiting list of children about whom there are concerns will be drawn up. As places become available decisions will be made by the SEN team regarding their allocation. This includes children who are exceptionally able or ‘gifted’.
A waiting list of all children for whom it is felt an Educational Assessment (Stage 3) would be of value is drawn up each year and parents are informed. Children on this list are prioritised by the SEN team according to greatest need and length of time on list. They may choose to wait for the assessment to be completed under the school’s NEPS allocation or have the assessment completed privately.

Where parents are not agreeable to a diagnostic assessment at Stage 2 or a referral for professional consultation/assessment at Stage 3, a note is made of this, which the parents are asked to sign. The class teacher continues to monitor the child’s progress over a period of time and if the issues continue to be of concern will make the same request again. If it is deemed appropriate, advice will be sought from NEPS and /or the NCSE.

In the case of pupils with emotional or behavioural difficulties, it is recognised that, with serious difficulties, more urgent action may be needed. In these cases the pupil’s needs are, with parents’ permission, discussed with the relevant NEPS psychologist and/or the case is referred to the clinical services of the Health Services Executive. This may lead to a more detailed behavioural management programme to be implemented at home and in class, or to referral for further specialist assessment.

In the case of pupils identified at an early age as having very significant special educational needs, intervention at stage 3 will be necessary on their entry to school. Support in the classroom will be an essential component of any learning programme devised for such pupils, and primary responsibility for the pupil will remain with the class teacher, in consultation with the relevant resource teacher.

Final decisions in relation to the selection of children for SEN support are made by the principal, in consultation with the resource teacher, the class teacher and the parents. Priority is always given to those children with greatest need and decisions are made in light of the overall SEN caseload within the school at that particular time.

5. The enrolment of children with identified special educational needs

Prior to the child’s enrolment in the school, parents are requested to keep us updated on any emergent needs. When children have been offered a place in the school, parents are invited to complete a form and to send to the school any professional reports that may help the school to ensure the best possible provision for the child. The principal and the enrolment officer will normally present relevant information to the Board in order to ensure that the correct supports are in place and to ensure that we can meet our obligations to all children. The advice of the SENO will be sought were needed. Relevant applications in line with NCSE requirements for additional supports will be made. A visit to the school is normally arranged for all incoming pupils in June each year. Additional meetings may be arranged with the parents and other professionals supporting a child with special educational and /or care needs in order to ensure we are fully prepared to meet those needs.
The DES provides additional resources to schools to help to support the learning needs of such pupils. While the model of provision is presently under review and likely to change from September 2015, at present the provision of resources (teaching, care support and assistive technology) is determined by Circular 02/05. The eligibility of a child for additional support is determined by reference to relevant assessments, which must be available to the school. Many of the children accessing additional supports in school will also be attending services outside school, such as speech and language therapy, child guidance services, summer schools and workshops, medical consultations etc.

6. Children with emerging special needs – The staged approach

For children with emerging needs that have not been identified before the child is enrolled in the school, access to resources is determined within the school in the first instance by a process of consultation between the class teacher, the parents, the Principal and the resource team. The school also has access to the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS). This means that we can call on the services of an Education Psychologist for assessments, advice and support and review. School based intervention for children with emerging SEN follow the process outlined in circular 02/05 and recommended by NEPS in their Draft Framework for Practice (2013)/ Continuum of Support documents. See Appendix x.
Concerns about children arise in a number of ways: parents may approach the class teacher or the principal about a concern they have relating to the academic, social and emotional or behavioural development of their child. Teachers or other staff members may have ongoing concerns or concerns may arise following standardized or other testing at class level. Once concerns have been raised, the class teacher should initiate contact with the resource teacher working with the class or the principal teacher in order to start intervention at stage one. See Appendices for full details.

7. Roles and responsibilities

7.1 The Board of Management:

  • Oversees the development, implementation and review of the SEN policy
  • Is responsible for ensuring that available resources are allocated in line with the policy
  • Provides a secure facility for the storage of records relating to pupils in receipt of SEN teaching

7.2 The Principal Teacher
The Principal teacher has overall responsibility for the schools SEN Programme. The particular role is outlined in Chapter 3, section 3.3 of the Learning Support Guidelines

7.3 The Class Teacher
The class teacher has primary responsibility for the progress of all pupils in his / her class. A particular responsibility of the class teacher is the creation of a classroom environment that optimises learning opportunities for all pupils. Section 3.4 of the Learning Support Guidelines outlines the class teachers’ role in developing and implementing the school plan on SEN.

7.4 The Resource teacher
The term ‘resource teacher’ is used to describe additional teaching posts and hours allocated to the school to assist in delivering education which meets the needs of children assessed as having a disability and/or requiring support teaching in English and maths or with social and emotional and /or behavioural difficulties. While overall responsibility for the education of all the children in a class rests with the class teacher, the resource teacher will work closely with the class teacher in planning and implementing the curriculum programme for children with SEN. The role of the resource teacher involves (See DES Circular 08/02):

  • Assessing and recording a child’s needs and progress
  • Setting specific, time-related targets for each child and agreeing these with the class teacher, parents and principal, in the form of individual education plans or group education plans
  • Direct teaching of the children, either in a separate room or within the mainstream class
  • Team-teaching – so long as the children concerned are deriving benefit from it
  • Advising class teachers with regard to curriculum planning, adapting the curriculum, teaching strategies, suitable textbooks, use of Information Technology and suitable software and a range of other related matters
  • Meeting and advising parents, accompanied by the class teacher, as necessary. The frequency of meetings with parents will depend on the needs of the child. However, parents are a rich source of information which will be of value in assessing the needs of the child and in determining curriculum priorities. Parents also have a role in implementing parts of the education programme with their child at home
  • Short meetings with other relevant professionals, in the children’s interest – e.g. psychologists, speech and language therapists, visiting teachers, special school or special class teachers

7.5 The Role of SNA
Note: The DES has just issued a new circular 00030/2014 The Special Needs Assistant Scheme. This policy will be updated in 2014/15 to take account of this circular.
The SNA assists in the support and successful integration of children with care needs arising from special needs. The general duties of SNA`s are as outlined in DES circular 0030/2014. This circular should be read in conjunction with DES Circular 0071/2011 Public Service Agreement – Special Needs Assistants and DES circular 058/2006 Redundancy arrangements for SNAs and DES circulars 12/05 and 15/05 on Contract of employment for SNAs. Here in RMDS, the role involves:
Supporting the pupil by:

  • Meeting physical needs as required, while encouraging the child to remain independent. See policy on manual handling and on meeting physical needs including toileting in Appendices
  • Assisting in areas of particular difficulty (language, behaviour, reading, spelling, handwriting/presentation, social skills
  • Clarifying and explaining instructions
  • Ensuring the child knows how to use the materials and equipment provided
  • Motivating and encouraging the child
  • Liaising with the class teacher to differentiate the curriculum for the child
  • Helping pupils to stay focused in order to concentrate and finish work set
  • Learning about the various special needs in order to develop an understanding of the specific needs of the child concerned

Supporting the teacher by:

  • Attending the IEP meetings, as appropriate
  • Participating in the evaluation of the support programme
  • Contribute to the maintenance of the child’s progress records
  • To provide regular feedback about the child to the teacher, related to care needs

Supporting the school by:
Being aware of school procedures, particularly with regard to Health and Safety, (to include child protection, internet acceptable use and toileting) Code of Behaviour, yard-time, confidentiality, contact with parents and maintenance of records

  • Attending relevant in-service training
  • Contributing to the development of positive links between home and school
  • Carrying out other duties as assigned by the Principal

Staff development
The Board of Management is committed to supporting the training and in-service needs of SNA`s. (see Staff training policy)

8. Intervention

8.1 Stage 1- class based interventions
At stage one, the class teacher draws up the plan for class based intervention and records it on the Aladdin database. This stage includes plans for exceptionally able or gifted children. The main aim is to challenge and motivate highly able children on a daily basis within the classroom. The needs of these children are best met as part of a normal differentiated classroom provision. This includes enrichment and extension activities. In order to do this, each teacher will ensure that they are familiar with the draft guidelines for ‘Teachers for Exceptionally Able Students’ (NCCA, 2007). Each teacher will also assess whether there are children who should be added to the ‘watch list’ complied each June and reviewed each January.
8.2 Stage 2 and 3 – Individual (IEP) and group (GEP) education plans
Individual Education Plans (IEPs) or Group Education Plans (GEP) are prepared for all children accessing resource support at stage 2 and stage 3. What will be included in the plan will depend on the priority needs identified in the assessment reports and / or in planning meetings involving all personnel working with the child. When possible the child should also contribute to his / her own IEP. The plan must be seen as a working document that is regularly reviewed, changed and amended as needs dictate. The current template is included in the Appendices. Each plan is monitored through teacher observation, planning and progress records all of which are kept on file by the resource teacher responsible for drawing up the plan.
At Stage two and three, the resource teacher should take responsibility for organizing, chairing the meeting, preparing the agenda and setting a time limit for the meeting. Planning meetings should be held involving all team members – for example, the resource teacher, the class teacher, the parents and where appropriate, other personnel such as outside professionals and SNAs. The team meeting should agree on the priority needs to be addressed, identify long term learning goals and decide on the implementation process of the plan. The plan should also outline the necessary resources and back-up services required for implementation. The principal should be kept informed by the SEN teacher of the timetabling of these meetings and of the personnel attending. See NCSE Guidelines on the Individual Education Plan Process (May 2006) and in particular 2.3 Convening and Conducting IEP Planning Meetings.
Plans are drawn up in October and February, with reviews built in to each of those formal meetings. An end of year review takes place in June and a draft plan for the new school year drawn up for the incoming team to develop. On an informal level, regular evaluation and review are carried out through regular staff and parent contact. However, it may also be necessary to reconvene the team to carry out a more formal review of progress and to re-assess priority needs, particularly in the light of support services that may be available. It is envisaged that the child’s individual plan would cater for priority needs and that the child would access the broad curriculum through their participation in normal classroom activities with their peers. Sample planning templates are included in the curriculum guidelines prepared by the NCCA and in the Learning Support Guidelines (DES 2000). See Appendix x for the current template used here in RMDS.
8.3 Record keeping
Planning and record keeping of the children’s progress in the areas that have been prioritized in the education plans / programmes are drawn up and held by the resource teacher. These records are an important source of information for reporting to parents regarding their child’s progress. The resource teacher maintains the following records in individual files:

  • IEP/group education plan
  • Short term planning and programme record
  • Other records, for example pupil work samples, tape recordings, written records, reading records, assessment records

These files are stored in the relevant resource room. Access is available to the class teacher, resource teacher and the principal. Parents and other professionals working with the child may also access the file. See school policy on record keeping. The class teacher maintains the normal class records on pupils with SEN, similar to those maintained for all pupils.

8.4 Communication
At RMDS, we encourage and welcome open communication between principal, teachers, parents, visiting teachers and outside professionals who engage with our children. See policy on communication with parents. In addition to the regular communication with all parents, there are additional arrangements in place for communication with parents of children with SEN, as follows:

  • Formal meetings take place in October, November, February and June with parents of children receiving additional support
  • Parents are encouraged to make regular contact with the class teacher and the resource teacher. Resource teachers are available on the corridors each morning to meet informally with parents. Class teachers are also available for short informal meetings between 8.30am and 8.45am each morning
  • The school’s approach to managing SEN is outlined at the general class meetings each year. Formal parent/teacher meetings may be convened at the request of the parent or teachers at any time

8.5 Timetabling
The amount of time allocated to individual pupils with low incidence disabilities is determined by the DES based on assessment reports. This allocation of time includes planning, preparation and meetings. However, we try to maximise direct teaching time. Resource teachers, in consultation with the principal will have flexibility regarding whether all this time is spent individually with the pupil or in groups with other children with similar needs. The decision to group or pair children will depend on their individual needs, the compatibility of the curriculum and activity programmes, and whether or not the children are at a stage where they would benefit from such learning. Certain advantages to intensive one to one instruction include:

  • Intensive individual help is provided immediately for those who need it
  • Children with milder difficulties can improve quite quickly and this success has a positive effect on their self-confidence and morale
  • Children with learning difficulties may find the small group and Learning Support room less threatening than the regular classroom

It is important that children who are withdrawn from their classrooms do not regularly miss the same subject area as all children must be exposed to broad curriculum experiences. In particular children should not miss out on aspects of the curriculum which he / she is successful or particularly enjoys. Children in the senior classes with an exemption from Irish are prioritized for support during Gaeilge time. Resource teachers may also work with pupils in their classroom alongside the class teacher. When finalized, copies of the timetable are made available to the principal teacher(s) and the class teachers concerned.

All decisions must take account of the current overall level of resource support available in the school and adhere to the principle that those in greatest need must access the most help. Timetables must also be flexible enough to accommodate those children who may need support unexpectedly for short periods. Some collaboration and consultation time is timetabled; however, consultation between teachers generally takes place by agreement outside class time.

8.6 Continuing /discontinuing supplementary teaching
There are two instructional terms, September to February and February to June. Each individual or group education plan is monitored through teacher observation, planning and progress records and the keeping of individual files containing samples of teachers work and reading records. All IEPs and group plans have a review date. Following each review, a decision is taken regarding future provision. This decision is based on:

  • Whether the pupil has reached some of all of the behavioural /learning targets
  • Whether the pupil will be able to cope in the classroom context without additional support
  • Retesting using the same diagnostic tests used at the initial screening stage and comparison of scores
  • Consultation with parents, teachers and if appropriate the pupil
  • The decision must also take account of the overall resource teaching demands in the school

9. Resources and materials
An index of resources in included at in the Appendices. This index is regularly updated.

10. Professional development
Members of staff are encouraged to attend relevant continuing professional development in the area of special education. Where professional development needs are identified (through discussion and review at staff meetings for example), an action plan is devised to ensure that needs are adequately addressed. Responses may include a staff day/staff development session, engagement of external expertise, provision of additional l resource materials. Where staff members attend course, they are given the opportunities to report back at staff meetings. Regular training for SNAs is also provided within the school. In general experienced teachers are assigned to resource teaching duties.

11. Related policies
Enrolment policy
Child Protection policy
Code of Behaviour
Assessment policy
Anti -bullying policy
Policy on Manual Handling
Policy on Meeting Physical Needs including toileting
Data Protection policy
Communication policy
Staff training policy
Policy on Exemption from Gaeilge
Curriculum policies

12. Success criteria
The success of this policy will be seen through:

  • Inclusion of pupils with SEN in the school
  • Evidence of progress of these pupils in all areas of their development and education
  • Positive feedback from Parents, staff, pupils, other professionals working with the child and the DES inspector

13. Implementation and review
This plan is currently implemented and will be regularly reviewed in light of school priorities and DES requirements

14. Ratification and Communication
This policy was ratified by RMDS Board of Management at its meeting of 16th June 2014. It will be made available on the school website or copies can be obtained from the school office.

Signed: Colm Healy, Chairperson

Ranelagh Multi-Denominational School,
Ranelagh Road,
Dublin 6.
T: +353 1 496 1722