Additonal Learning Needs Policy
You can download a pdf of the Policy here
Moneenroe National School welcomes children with various educational and developmental needs, and aims to help each and every child to reach their potential. Some children who attend our school require more support than is generally provided in mainstream classes so that they can progress and learn. This policy outlines how we support these children. These supports are put in place in line with guidelines from the Department of Education and Science and from the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS).
Our Special Educational Needs Policy aims to endorse the aims in EPSEN:
Development of the Policy:
This policy was developed by the school’s Support Teacher and the school’s Principal using a consultative process, whereby every member of staff was asked for their input. Parents were also asked to input into the policy using a Special Educational Needs Questionnaire, attached in Appendix A. The policy was then brought to the Board of Management for ratification. The policy references a number of key guideline documents. The key texts were:
An Emphasis Early Intervention:
The principle of early intervention underpins our school’s policy on special education and the provision of supplementary teaching support. Research evidence indicates that the implementation of an intensive early intervention program in the younger primary classes is an effective response to meeting the needs of children who experience low achievement and/or learning difficulties. We aim to provide more intensive support to children during Junior Infants to 2nd class in order help them to reach basic levels of literacy, oral language and numeracy by the time that they reach the senior cycle of the school.
Assessment For Learning
Assessment is an essential element of the teaching and learning process. Our focus is on assessment for learning. This means that assessment information should inform our teaching, and thus improve the child’s learning potential. This then leads to a better understanding of the child’s needs. In Moneenroe National School, a variety of assessment tools are utilised, in line with guidelines from the Department of Education and Science. In particular, standardised tests are carried out at the end of each academic year so that the children’s attainment levels in literacy and numeracy are monitored. The tests currently utilised are detailed in Table 1. In addition, in class testing and learning support screening is carried out regularly by class teachers, which help to identify children who are struggling in particular areas. Moneenroe N.S. class teachers aim to carry out formal testing at the end of every half term.
Table 1: Standardised Test
Other methods of assessment used in Moneenroe National School include:
Feedback to Parents
In line with the Education Act, it is school policy to inform parents of standardised test results and to explain the findings. These are given as Standard Scores and Percentile Ranks. Standardised test results are provided to parents in writing on the end of year reports. If there is a significant drop in the child’s score (e.g. a drop of 15 or more points in their Standard Score), it is the class teacher’s responsibility to discuss this drop with parents prior to the end of the academic year. It is school policy not to give children’s test booklets or answer sheets of tests to parents as, as once standardised tests are in circulation it renders them null in void. We feel that each assessment method has a contribution to make in helping to monitor individual children’s rates of progress and levels of attainment.
Extra Support Available to Children with Additional Learning Needs:
In keeping with the Department of Education and Skills publication: Special Educational Needs- A Continuum of Support Guidelines (2007), the school has adopted a staged approach to additional learning support in Moneenroe National School. This approach aims to put whole school strategies in place for children to help them to succeed and develop. However, a small % of pupils require an individual approach from the class teacher, from support teachers and from outside professionals depending on the needs of the pupil. The needs of pupils with special educational needs can best be considered in terms of a continuum and therefore support given is also on the basis of a continuum in our school (SEN- A Continuum of Support, 2007, p. 5.).
The term support in these guidelines refers to both assessment and intervention. The focus is on identifying actions which can be taken to make a positive difference to the pupil/s. These actions are identified using a problem solving approach. An incrementally more systematic process is outlined depending on where the pupil’s needs lie on the continuum in terms of intensity and duration.
This diagram demonstrates how intensity of support correlates with intensity of resource allocation.
Figure 1: How Resources and Supports are Allocated – A Continuum of Support
Moneenroe National School’s Continuum of Support:
The Department of Education and Skills and the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) recommend a Continuum of Support for children with additional learning needs. This approach is detailed in this section of the policy, and references the Departments guidelines. The core text used was Special Educational Needs- A Continuum of Support (SEN- ACS, 2007). This type of approach uses three stages of support: Classroom Support – Level 1, School Support – Level 2 and School Support Plus- Level 3. These three levels of support are implemented for a small % of children whose needs are not met within the normal frame of mainstream teaching. We ask parents to give written consent at the beginning of every school year to be supported by the continuum of support. See Appendix B for a sample letter. Parents are also updated throughout the year in terms of what level of support their child receives, and they are asked to contribute to and sign off on Support Plans which may be put in place.
Level 1 Classroom Support
Classroom Support – Level 1, is the most common, and typically, the first response to emerging needs. Extra Classroom Support is put in place by our teachers when pupils have distinct or individual educational needs, or if pupils require approaches to learning and/or behaviour which are additional to or different from those required by other pupils in their class. When this level is support is required, the teacher and parents discuss the nature of the problem and consider strategies which may be effective. A summary of the teacher’s and parent’s concerns, and the strategies which are to be put in place are then detailed in the child’s Classroom Support Plan. For example, the teacher may decide to differentiate the child’s spelling list and reading material. The Classroom Support Plan and any additional documentation about the child, parent-teacher meetings, telephone consultations, reports, correspondence etc. are filed in the child’s Continuum of Support Student File.
A pupil receiving support within their classroom would be considered to be at Level 1 in terms of the "Staged Approach to Assessment, Identification and Programme Planning" (DES Special Education Circular 02/05). Parents are asked for consent orally before this level of support is initiated, and they are asked to sign off on the Classroom Support Plan.
At the end of a term of work, the Classroom Support Plan is reviewed to see if the strategies being used are working. A review of classroom support actions may involve the class teacher, parents and pupil (in an age appropriate manner) and should focus on:
The outcomes of the review process may be:
Level 2 -School Support
In some cases, interventions at Classroom Support - Level 1 is not enough to fully meet the pupil’s additional learning needs. School Support- Level 2 may, therefore, be required. This level of support is implemented by the Learning Support Teacher. Generally, these children are selected using the following criteria.
Oral consent is required before children receive support at this level, as written consent is given at the beginning of the school year to be included in the Continuum of Support. The class teacher needs to involve the learning support/resource teachers in the problem-solving process at this point and it involves more systematic gathering of information and the development and monitoring of a School Support Plan or an Individual Pupil Learning Profile (IPLP). This requires further assessment and information gathering which will inform:
1. From the School:
2. From individual assessments carried out by learning support/resource and class teachers which may involve any, or all, of the following:
3. From Parents
4. From the Pupil
5. From Other Sources
Following information gathering and assessment, involved teachers meet or telephone the pupil’s parents. A School Support Plan is drawn up which will set out the nature of the pupil’s learning difficulties, define specific teaching, learning and behavioural targets and set a timescale for review. The plan should for the most part be implemented within the normal classroom setting and complimented by focused school based intervention programmes. Home based actions may also be included. This plan should be reviewed termly, with the co-ordinating teacher arranging a review meeting, between the teacher/s and parents. All documentation is kept in the child’s Continuum of Support Student File. The review process focuses on the progress the pupil has made towards the targets set, and a review of methods used. The outcomes of the review process may be:
A pupil receiving mostly group support or occasional individual support in addition to classroom support would be considered to be at Level 2 in terms of the "Staged Approach to Assessment Identification and Programme Planning". (DES Special Education Circular 02/05). This is sometimes referred to as “Learning Support”.
Level 3 -School Support Plus
If a pupil’s additional learning needs are severe and/or persistent, they are likely to need intensive support. School Support Plus – Level 3 will generally involve personnel outside the school team in the problem solving, assessment and intervention process. However, information from Classroom and School Support Plans, contained in the pupil’s Continuum of Support Student File, will provide a starting point for problem-solving at this level. Classroom Support and School Support will continue to be an important element of his/her Individual Education Plan. At this level, our children often receive individual and/or group teaching. Children who have needs which require School Support Plus- Level 3 may also be referred to the school’s psychologist in consultation with their parents. The school psychologist works with the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS). NEPS psychologists support schools in developing whole school approaches as well as strategies suited to individual classes, groups of pupils and individual children. NEPS often utilise a consultative and advisory approach with pupils receiving Classroom Support – Level 1 and School Support- Level 2. However, they will be more likely to engage in direct work with pupils, parents and teachers of pupils who are receiving support at School Support Plus – Level 3.
Some students who have their needs met through the School Support Plus- Level 3 process may also fall under the terms of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act (EPSEN) 2004. Equally, some students at this level will not necessarily be covered by the terms of EPSEN, but will benefit from School Support Plus level of intervention. This group may include pupils with High Incidence and Low Incidence Disabilities as defined by the Department of Education and Science in Special Education Circular 09/04 and 02/05. Pupils at this level of support require an Individualised Educational Plan, which will be written by the child’s learning support/resource teacher in consultation with the class teacher, the child’s parents and the child themselves.
Writing an Individual Educational Plan
When writing the child’s Individual Education or Learning Plan, the following areas should be included:
- Strategies for supporting the pupil’s progress and inclusion in the classroom setting (classroom support)
- Individual and/or small group/special class interventions/programmes
- Specific methodologies/programmes to be implemented
- Specific equipment/materials and/or IT supports if required to support learning and access to the curriculum
- Support required from a Special Needs Assistant (SNA) if appropriate
- The goals which the pupil is to achieve over a period not exceeding 12 months e.g.:
The pupil’s priority learning needs, long and short term targets to be achieved
A template Individual Educational Plan is attached in Appendix E.
Targets should describe the knowledge, skills or understanding that a pupil is expected to have by the end of a particular time period. Targets should be SMART:
· S – specific (behaviour, conditions, criteria)
· M – manageable and measurable
· A – achievable and agreed
· R – realistic and reviewable
· T – time bounded
Examples of targets with clearly stated behaviour, conditions and criteria.
It is important that the child’s parents are consulted for their input. The following questions should be considered: How do they feel about the interventions which have been tried? Are they in agreement with initiating this process? In an age appropriate way, we also aim to include the pupil’s opinion. The following questions should be considered: Have the pupil’s views been sought (in an age/developmental stage appropriate manner) about the interventions and supports tried? Their perception of problem? Teachers: Have all teachers working with the pupil been consulted? What are their views about the effectiveness of the interventions and supports already provided?
An alternative to the Individual Educational Plan is the Individual Profile and Learning Programme (IPLP), which is included in the Learning Support Guidelines that were issued to learning support teachers in 2000. However, in Moneenroe National School, we generally utilise individual plans and plan for groups during weekly planning.
One teacher (either the class teacher or a support teacher) will usually take on a co-ordinating role for planning at the School Support Plus Level 3 of support. The School Support Plus co-ordinating teacher should organise the review process. Parents should be invited to contribute to this review. Outside professionals and the SENO may be involved as appropriate or necessary
The review process should focus on:
The outcomes of the review process may be:
A pupil receiving more intense teaching support, including more focused small group work or individual teaching is considered to be at Level 3 in terms of the "Staged Approach to Assessment Identification and Programme Planning" (DES Special Education Circular 02/05).
Continuum of Support Student Files:
Every child who is receiving support within the Continuum will have a Continuum of Support Student File. According to to the National Educational Psychological Service, the Continuum of Support Student File is necessary as it:
Guidelines on how teachers are to use these files are attached in Appendix C. Guidelines from the Department of Education and Science should be referred to in terms of storage.
Organisation of Resources to Meet the Needs of the Pupils in the School:
Meeting the needs of individual pupils with special educational needs is often related to the organisation of the resources available within the school. As a result, Moneenroe National School aims to utilise the organisational guidelines detailed in the SEN- A Continuum of Support (2007). These are copied and included as Appendix F of this Additional Learning Needs Policy. Please see attachment for details. At present, schools are provided with a number of extra support hours under the General Allocation Model. In addition, Resource hours are allocated to the school to cater for the needs of pupils with special needs arising from a Low Incidence Disability in terms of Special Education Circulars 09/04 and 02/05. In terms of yearly organisation and planning of support teaching, September is prioritised as a time of planning, testing and writing Support Plans for the children. June is prioritised as a time for reviewing progress and planning for the next year.
Roles and Responsibilities:
The Class Teacher
In our school, the class teacher is primarily responsible for each child’s learning and behaviour. They are responsible for liaising with the parents regarding the decision to initiate the Classroom Support- Level 1 process. Good practice would suggest that the class teacher will generally act as co-ordinator throughout the problem solving process in consultation with the pupil and his/her parents. The class teacher may also seek advice from the learning support / resource teacher in the school and will keep the principal informed. He or she maintains a record of relevant information in the child’s Continuum of Support Student File, which is used should more detailed problem solving be required at School Support Level 2. At Levels 2 and 3, the class teacher class teacher contributes to the problem solving process and remains responsible for working with the pupil in the classroom, providing/ensuring classroom supports as agreed in the School Support Plan.
The work of learning support/resource teachers entails providing as many supplementary teaching lessons as possible. However, we also recognise that, in addition to providing supplementary teaching, the learning-support teacher must also allocate time to non-teaching activities. These activities could include overseeing the early intervention and prevention programmes, conducting diagnostic assessments, maintaining and reviewing pupil records, co-ordinating special needs services and consulting with teachers and parents (Learning Support Guidelines, 2000, p. 29).
At level 1, the role of the learning support/resource teacher (and/or other supporting teachers, where available) is to provide advice and resources to the class teacher which will assist him/her in the assessment process and in the development of classroom and, where appropriate, home based interventions for the pupil. The role at this point is primarily consultative.
At Level 2, the learning support / resource teacher will usually be involved in the problem solving process or in providing additional support to the pupil in the form in class and small group withdrawn teaching. In our school, there may be more than one supporting teacher involved as appropriate to the presenting problem. (eg. language support teacher, home school liaison teacher or support teacher).
Learning support/resource teachers may also take on the role of Coordination Teacher for the child’s Support Plan, however, all involved in the process agree on who is best placed to take on this role. The coordinating teacher takes the lead role and continues to consult with school staff, the pupil and his/her parents throughout the process. Following consultation with parents, the coordinating teacher may seek additional information or advice from other professionals to supplement information from the Classroom Support Level 1. He or she continues to maintain a record of relevant information which would provide a basis for more detailed problem solving if required at School Support Plus Level 2.
At Level 1, the principal’s role is to note the fact that a Classroom Support Process is being put in place. At Level 2 and 3, having obtained parental consent, the principal records the decision to implement a School Support or School Support Plus Plan. He or she will be kept informed by the relevant teachers. He or she should have access to the pupil’s Continuum of Support Student File, which contains records in relation to assessment, intervention and reviews (from both the classroom support and school support levels).
Special Educational Needs Assistants
According to Circular 0030/2014, SNAs are important and valued members of the school community. An SNA is an important whole school resource. SNA’s primary role involves looking after the care needs of children with special educational needs. In addition, SNA’s are responsible for carrying out in secondary care associated tasks. Circular 0030/2014 states that these are as follows:
The teacher has primary responsibility for the progress and care of all pupils in his/her classroom, including pupils with special educational needs. SNAs therefore do not have a teaching/pedagogical role. SNAs participate fully in the life of the school and may therefore also assist other children is the school, who from time to time need assistance, or who have intermittent care needs, but who may not have been assessed as requiring SNA support on a permanent basis.
The care role of the SNA, in instances where SNA support is sanctioned to assist with behavioural related care needs, is concerned with assisting the teacher to meet the care needs of the child by:
At all Levels, other professionals such as Educational Psychologists, Speech and Language Therapists, Visiting Teachers etc. may be involved indirectly, offering consultation or advice in relation to appropriate approaches for pupils presenting with early difficulties. In addition, work on the development of whole school policies, practices and initiatives to support all pupils with special educational needs in partnership with NEPS, DES staff and other outside agencies can support interventions at this stage. At Level 2 and 3, they may also give advice in relation to appropriate assessment and intervention approaches for particular pupils without necessarily working directly with the pupil. In our school, parental consent is sought where discussions occur about an individual named pupil. The appropriateness of involvement and availability of the professional in question is discussed with the professional in the first instance. Advice on the development of whole school policies, practice and initiatives in relation to the provision and development of intensive early intervention programmes for pupils with similar needs can be also be initiated and/or supported by external professionals and agencies.
Continuing and Discontinuing Supplementary Teaching:
An instructional term is generally taken to mean 13-20 weeks of instruction. However, as we are a small, rural school, our learning-support teacher is often shared between schools. Depending on who is in the role of support teacher, this may mean that an instructional term is taken to mean one school year. The Support Teacher aims to meet with parents at least once a year to discuss the child’s School Support or School Support Plus Plans to discuss the revised learning targets and activities in the pupil’s needs. Supplementary teaching will normally be discontinued depending on the following factors:
Communication between Parents and School Staff:
Effective communication with parents is critically important to the success of the Continuum of Support. The principal, class teacher, and the learning support/resource teachers will facilitate the involvement of parents in the Continuum of Support Process. Class and support teachers should bring any concerns which they may have to the attention of the principal before feeding back to parents. It is then primarily the responsibility of the teacher to liaise with parents regarding any concerns. Similarly, parents are to approach teachers first with concerns, and then the principal if a resolution was not reached. Finally, SNA’s also play a vital communication role between home and school, so informal positive feedback from SNAs to parents is helpful. However, SNAs should inform the pupil’s class teacher and other involved teachers and/or to the principal in relation to arising concerns, and it will be the responsibility of involved teachers to discuss these concerns with parents.
Monitoring and Reviewing of Policy:
According to the Learning Support Guidelines (2000), a comprehensive review and revision of the elements of the school plan dealing with learning support should take place every two to three years, and should take into account the views of the Board of Management, the principal teacher, the learning-support teacher(s), other teachers on the school staff, and the parents of pupils in the school. This review should be instigated by the principal teacher and the outcomes should lead to a revision of the
school plan and changes in specific practices as appropriate. Monitoring and reviewing will thus be an ongoing and developmental process.
1st to 6th Class
Diagnostic testing and screening
support for more
More Complex Needs
support for more