Hedgestown National School


Special Needs Policy




This policy reflects the current guidelines as outlined in the Education for Persons with Special Education Needs (EPSEN) Act 2004, the Department of Education and Science (DES) Special Education Circular (Sp. Ed.) 02/05, the DES Learning Support Guidelines 2002, the National Council for Sp. Ed. (NCSE) Guidelines, Procedures and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) Guidelines for Teachers of Students with General Learning Disabilities 2007 and the Special Educational Needs and Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties Continuum of Support Guidelines (National Educational Psychological Service 2007, 2011).



Assists parents in making an informed decision regarding enrolment.


Contained in this policy are the procedures and practices to be followed in relation to pupils with special needs in the high incidence, low incidence and other eligible categories, a whole school approach to teaching/learning in relation to pupils with special needs, the roles, responsibilities and communication structures for pupils with special needs, the guidelines to enable pupils with learning needs access as complete an educational experience as is possible.

Basic Principles

The basic principles for special needs provision are as follows:


Recognising that pupils may have short, medium or long-term special needs during their school career.


Directing resources towards the pupils with greatest need.


Matching the level of support to the level of pupil need.


Identifying and supporting the needs of children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) in a timely and efficient manner.


Providing early intervention.


Delivering support via a Continuum of Support model as appropriate e.g. withdrawal, in-class support, team teaching, one-to-one or small group support by the learning support/resource teacher (LS/RT), consultation and liaison between the class teacher and the learning support/resource teacher.


The most appropriate member of the teaching staff will provide support to a pupil with additional needs at a particular time, e.g. the classroom teacher or the LS/RT.


Focusing support in the key areas of literacy, numeracy and social, emotional and behavioural skills.


Developing positive attitudes regarding school and learning in these pupils.


Ensuring a flexible and adaptable programme through a timetable review and a pupil caseload review per term.


Maximising the benefit of the programme by endeavouring to involve as many pupils as possible at various stages throughout the year thereby supporting and helping to include pupils with special needs into more group activities.


Whole school policies that support pupils with SEN.


Parental involvement


Equality and Consistency: While it is expected that all pupils comply with the school Code of Behaviour, it is recognised that some pupils face individual challenges especially those with neurological, social, emotional or behavioural difficulties.   Where possible and reasonable, provisions will be made so that pupils with SEN and physical disabilities will have equality of access and participation in all areas of the curriculum and to the school buildings.  In all such cases, close co-operation with the parents is essential.

Model of Operation

The “Continuum of Support” approach to assessment as outlined by the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) Continuum of Support Guidelines (2007 and 2011) and in Circular Spec Ed 02/05 (DES) is described below:


Continuum Approach



Stage 1:

Classroom Support



Teacher and parents collaborate to identify a pupil’s needs, provide support, track and review a pupil’s difficulties within the classroom.

This involves an intervention process coordinated by the class teacher and carried out within the regular classroom.



Stage 2:

School Support





Involvement of LS/RT for further diagnostic testing and assessment. An intervention process is usually coordinated by the LS/RT working alongside the class teacher. Interventions at  this stage are additional to those provided through classroom support.

This stage may result in devising an Individual Pupil/Group Learning profile for an agreed period e.g. one term. It may also involve consultation with the NEPS Psychologist.

Final review leading to return to Classroom Support, continuation at the School Support stage for additional term or a move to the School Support Plus stage.



Stage 3:

School Support Plus



School may seek a referral to NEPS for consultation and/or assessment. The school may also request the involvement of other relevant external Community Services (e.g. Psychology, Occupational Therapy, Speech and Language Therapy). Liaison with NEPS/Community Services will enable more detailed consultation, assessment and development of intervention programmes.

Individual Education Plan (IEP) or IP/GLP will be developed in collaboration with parents and relevant teachers.

This level of intervention is for students with more complex and/or enduring difficulties and whose progress is considered inadequate despite carefully planned interventions at the previous levels.

May lead to the allocation of specific resource teaching hours or Special Needs Assistant by the

NCSE’s local Special Educational Needs Officer


A small number of pupils may arrive at school with difficulties that are significant and are immediately recognised. In such cases, it may be more appropriate to begin support at the School Support Plus level.


Note:  In exceptional circumstances the school may be required to by-pass this process where a pupil presents unexpected, immediate or severe needs and where a formal referral or assessment to allocate appropriate support is not forthcoming in a timely manner.  In such cases, the staff will operate with autonomy and discretion under the leadership of the principal to provide appropriate support to that pupil until such time as an appropriate referral can take place, e.g. where the pupil’s needs pose a health and safety risk to him/herself or to other pupils.


Selection of Eligible Pupils

Applying the Continuum Approach and using various screening/assessment processes, the class teacher provides the first line of support to a pupil who presents with a special need.   Following a period of intervention and support at the classroom level and through consultation, a pupil may be referred to the LS/RT for individual programme planning, specific learning support sessions or further diagnostic testing.   Pupils are eligible if:

  • They have been formally allocated Resource Teaching Hours and/or SNA provision for the current school year by the NCSE’s SENO following a clinical or educational psychological assessment, i.e. pupils with Low Incidence Disabilities.   This will involve external personnel such as the NEPS Educational Psychologist, clinical staff at the Mater Child/Family Guidance clinic or other child guidance clinic and the local SENO.
  • They are in any of the categories of special educational needs eligible for Learning Support intervention as per Spec Ed 02/05 e.g. achievement at or below the 10th percentile on standardised reading or maths tests, mild speech and language difficulties, ADD/ADHD, emotional and behavioural difficulties or High Incidence Disabilities such as a specific learning difficulty.
  • They have mild or transient learning difficulties arising from identified speech and language difficulties or social and emotional difficulties.
  • Depending on the time remaining, the teaching staff may also decide to consider other pupils who score close to the cut-off points on standardised or other screening measures.


The number of General Allocation System hours for each school is based on the assumption that approximately 19% of pupils will require Learning Support intervention i.e. School Support at any time.

Priority and Timetabling

In general, support sessions of 30-50 minutes duration are allocated depending on the age and needs of the pupil/s.

In general, the Learning Support/Resource timetable will be drawn up in September and reviewed in February.

When timetabling, priority will be given to the pupils with greatest need.  In general this will follow the order of the categories of eligible pupils above with low incidence pupils who have been allocated specific resource hours receiving first priority.

The LS/RT will consult with the class teachers to ensure that withdrawal sessions occur at the most appropriate time in the pupil’s day.  All efforts will be made to ensure that pupils do not miss group class activities such as PE, Art and Music.

Support Continuation

In the case of the School Support Stage of intervention, the decision to continue or discontinue the supplementary teaching at the end of each defined period (e.g. an agreed instructional term of approximately 8-20 weeks) will be made by the class teacher and LS/RT following a review of progress against the original IP/GLP.  Parents will be updated at all stages.  This will involve either:

  • Discontinuation of supplementary teaching with continuation of appropriate support in the classroom or at home.  The LS/RT will check-in with these pupils to monitor their continued progress.
  • Continuation of supplementary teaching for a further instructional term with a revised IP/GLP.


The School Support Plus level of intervention is reviewed as per the processes of the external agencies involved e.g. the school must re-apply to the local SENO on an annual basis to renew any resource teaching hours and/or SNA allocation.  The NEPS psychologist or other clinical service may recommend a follow-up assessment by their agency to review the pupil’s provision.


Programme Planning, Implementation and Review

The staff will collaborate as a whole-school team on all aspects of the programme and ensure that regular formal and informal consultation time is made available for all class teachers with the LS/RT, as well as time to meet with parents or external agency staff.  This may include allocating agenda time at staff meetings.  The following people have particular responsibilities as follows:

The School Principal

  • Has overall responsibility to ensure that all tasks and duties in the programme are delivered and completed in an effective way.
  • Will ensure that appropriate correspondence, referrals and follow-up are made with external agencies such as NEPS, the local SENO, clinical Child/Family agencies, Department of Education and Skills, etc.
  • Will provide overall management for the Special Needs Assistants.
  • Maintain copies of external correspondence or confidential reports/documents in pupils’ files stored in the school office.







The LS/RT teachers in collaboration with the principal shall:


implement DES learning support guidelines.


identify and allocate timetable to pupils entitled to Resource/Learning Support/Language Support


 co-ordinate the drafting of IEPs and IP/GLPs for all children identified in need of support.


co-ordinate the implementation of whole-school procedures for the selection of pupils for supplementary teaching in line with the selection criteria specified in this policy and in consultation with class teachers and parents.


maintain a list of pupils who are receiving supplementary teaching and a list of pupils requiring further screening or observation.


schedule, manage and complete any referral application forms to the NEPS service for full educational psychological assessments.


schedule, manage and complete the annual returns to the NCSE to apply for Resource Teacher hours or SNA allocation.


collaborate with the principal and NEPS Educational Psychologist to maintain and file a list of pupils requiring a referral for educational psychological assessment.


develop and review school policy in relation to SEN.


liaise with parents, staff and other professionals e.g. SENO, NEPS, Physiotherapists, Language Therapists, and Occupational Therapists.


co-ordinate standardised testing within the school.

  • maintain files of all tests, documents, plans and records to be stored in the filing cabinet in the resource room.
  • Process and record any applications for the Exemption from Irish.


The Class Teacher

  • Has overall responsibility for the progress of each pupil in his/her class and maintains records tracking this.
  • Provides support and interventions to individual pupils, as well as tracking and reviewing the measures taken to support these pupils during the Classroom Support Stage of intervention.
  • Will collaborate closely with the LS/RT to ensure follow-up for pupils identified with potential special needs via classroom screening and observation.
  • Ensures parents are involved with planning and review.
  • Manages any Special Needs Assistants assigned to their pupils on a daily basis.


The Learning Support/Resource Teacher

The duties of the LS/RT, in consultation with the teaching staff and the principal, are to


Ensure that parents are consulted regarding their child’s participation in any learning support programme.


Seek parental permission if any diagnostic tests are to take place.


Create and file appropriate IEPs and/or IP/GLPs.


Maintain and file a weekly planning/progress record or equivalent for each individual or group of pupils in receipt of learning support/resource teaching.


Give brief progress information or follow-up tasks to the class teacher and/or Special Needs Assistant in a timely manner after each session or week’s work.


Assign differentiated homework, where agreed with class teacher and parents.


Provide supplementary teaching in English, Maths and Social/Emotional/Behavioural Skills to pupils who experience low achievement or social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.


Provide a review and assessment of each pupil at the end of their IEP or IP/GLP and consult with class teachers and parents on the appropriate next steps.


Schedule and timetable the programme each term to ensure the maximum benefit to all pupils, including pairing or grouping pupils with similar learning needs.


The Special Needs Assistant

The SNA will provide support to their assigned pupil/s on a one-to-one basis or in the context of group support, as deemed most appropriate to the pupil.

The SNA will carry out tasks and activities as organised by the class teacher or LS/RT to support the pupil’s IEP or IP/GLP and to assist with their personal care during the day.

C/f DES circular 07/02 guidelines for Special Needs Assistants.


Parents are welcome to provide feedback or comments to the class teacher on their child’s progress on an ongoing basis.

Parents will be asked to provide permission for any diagnostic testing by the LS/RT.

Parents will be invited to participate in planning meetings with the class teacher and/or LS/RT to prepare and review the IEPs or IP/GLPs.   Priority will be given to pupils with IEPs under the Resource Teaching system, followed by all other pupils receiving Learning Support under the General Allocation Scheme.

Programme Implementation

The learning support and resource teaching will be delivered and organised with regard to the following:

  • In accordance with pupils’ learning needs, pupils will be supported by the most appropriate of the following interventions in order to meet the targets in their IEP or IP/GLP: - direct contact time with the LS/RT, additional support by the class teacher or SNA within the classroom or differentiated homework.
  • In accordance with pupils’ learning needs, this may involve one or both of intensive one-to-one contact time or small group situations.
  • In accordance with pupils’ learning needs, support may be one or both of withdrawal time to the resource room or other location or in-class support within the classroom or team teaching within the classroom.  In-class support will always be planned and organised with the full collaboration of both teachers.
  • Pupils may be paired or grouped with other pupils with similar learning needs where appropriate and beneficial to the pupils involved.
  • With reference to the School Support stage of intervention, while the focus of support is on eligible pupils, the nature of the in-class support model and small group situations may deem it appropriate to include other pupils. This is generally a mutually beneficial experience for all pupils.
  • Based on pupil progress and ongoing screening, the list of pupils and the overall timetable (including IEPs and IP/GLPs) will be reviewed each term i.e. September to February, February to June.
  • The support teaching will be provided by the most appropriate teacher. This will often be the LS/RT but at times it may be appropriate for the class teacher to focus on the pupil/s while the LS/RT provides in-class or withdrawal support for another group of pupils.


Exemption from Irish

Where the results of an educational psychological assessment suggest that a pupil is eligible for an exemption from the study of Irish and where the parents request this and agree this with the school, the school will apply for this exemption from the DES in accordance with circular 12/96.  The LS/RT will process this application and ensure that the required school report is created and filed.   A copy of the exemption certificate will be provided to the parents.


Transfer to a Special Education Class/School

Where an educational psychological assessment report advises that a pupil would benefit from a temporary or permanent transfer to a Specific Learning Difficulty/Special Class or a Special School and where the parents wish to apply for this transfer, the parents make the application. The LS/RT and Principal will liaise with the new school and provide any documentation or reports requested by the parents or new school. In the case of a temporary transfer, the Board of Management will re-enrol the pupil when their transfer is complete.

Success Criteria

Some practical indicators of the success of this policy will include:

Pupils with special needs showing progress in assessments, screening tests and by review of IEPs and IP/GLPs.

Staff feedback indicating pupil progress.  Teacher observations including class teachers, principal, LS/RT and SNAs.

Pupil feedback on their own progress and experience of the programme.

Parental feedback at pupil review and planning meetings i.e. pupils with special needs only.

Follow-up reviews or assessments by NEPS Education Psychologists.


DES Whole School Evaluations or other Inspector’s Reports.