Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act, 2004
This Act was passed in June, 2004. The Act makes provision for the education of people with special educational needs, to provide that education wherever possible, in an inclusive environment with those who do not have such needs. The Act states:
“An Act to make further provision, having regard to the common good and in a manner that is informed by best international practice, for the education of people with special educational needs, to provide that the education of people with such needs shall, wherever possible, take place in an inclusive environment with those who do not have such needs, to provide that people….With special educational needs shall have the same right to avail of, and benefit from, appropriate education as do their peers who do not have such needs, to assist children with special educational needs to leave school with the skills necessary to participate, to the level of their capacity, in an inclusive way in the social and economic activities of society and to live independent and fulfilled lives, to provide for the greater involvement of parents of children with special educational needs in the education of their children, for those purposes to establish a body to be known as the national council for special education and to define its functions, to confer certain functions on health boards in relation to the education of people with special educational needs, to enable certain decisions made in relation to the education of people with such needs to be the subject of an appeal to an appeals board and to provide for related matters.”
The Act defines special educational needs as meaning:
‘‘special educational needs means, in relation to a person, a restriction in the capacity of the person to participate in and benefit from education on account of an enduring physical, sensory, mental health or learning disability, or any other condition which results in a person learning differently from a person without that condition and cognate words shall be construed accordingly;”
The Act makes provision for inclusive education as follows:
“ (a) a child with special educational needs shall be educated in an inclusive environment with children who do not have such needs unless the nature or degree of those needs of the child is such that to do so would be inconsistent with —
(a) the best interests of the child as determined in accordance with any assessment carried out under this Act, or
(b) the effective provision of education for children with whom the child is to be educated.”
Key elements of the Act include
- Statement on inclusive education - as above
- Broad definition of special educational needs – as above
- A “child” is defined as a person under 18 years of age
- Establishment of the National Council for Special Education with overall responsibility to assist schools to plan and deliver support services for SEN students. Council to appoint Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) who will work directly with schools.
- Each school will prepare an Education Plan for students who have been assessed as having special educational needs. The Plan will be prepared under the co-ordination of the SENO involving the co-operation of the parents, the Principal or relevant teachers, a psychologist from NEPS and other relevant personnel, as appropriate.
- Section 13 specifies the duty of the Minister for Education and Science and the Minister for Health and Children to make resources available for the preparation and the implementation of Education Plans.
A full copy of the Act can be downloaded from the Departmental website under the legislation section www.education.ie.