Assessment of Need - 26 October 2022

NCSEIPPN notes the issuing of Information Note SE 0002/2022 relating to the Assessment of Needs process and is calling for clarification to be provided in relation to a number of issues that arise.

Assessment of Need is a statutory process and every child has a right to an assessment of their needs being undertaken in keeping with the legislation. Schools have always had the opportunity to contribute to the AON process, however, there was no legal requirement to do so as those parts of the EPSEN Act had not been commenced.

The High Court ruled in June 2021 that there is a legal requirement on the education system to provide an assessment of education needs as part of the Assessment of Need Process. It is the responsibility of the NCSE to nominate an appropriate person/s to carry out the assessment of educational needs.

A working group was established, consisting of representatives from the NCSE, NEPS, the Inspectorate and the Special Education unit. The role of the group was to review the implications of the legal judgement and put in place a process for the assessment of education needs. A Report Form was developed for this purpose. The Report Form is to be completed by the nominated person and was designed in-line with a Student Support Plan. It is envisaged that all the data required to complete the Summary Report of Identified Education Needs is contained in an individual’s Student Support Plan.

Two issues arise for school leaders in relation to the completion and submission of this report form. The first issue relates to workload and the second issue relates to concerns regarding any potential legal liability arising from the sharing of information contained in Student Support files.

IPPN has liaised with our education partners in this regard. On foot of the mutual concerns that have been shared, the DE has called a meeting of stakeholders this Thursday, 27th October. The purpose of the meeting is to surface and resolve issues that have arisen for schools with regard to this process.

Clarity will be sought as to whether any potential legal liability arises for schools and whether schools are assisting in the process of assessment of educational needs or undertaking that assessment, as there is a lack of clarity in the information note in this regard. Confirmation will also be sought that any information provided is on the basis of the expertise of teachers and school leaders as education practitioners and not on any other basis.

We will revert to members in due course with any updates or clarifications that are provided. In the interim, we would advise that school leaders should notify their Boards of Management of any requests from the NCSE for the completion of a Report Form for the assessment of education needs and that Boards should seek guidance from their patrons and/or management bodies should they have queries in this regard. As always, members should feel free to contact our Leadership Support Team on this or any other school leadership matter.

On the wider issue of workload, IPPN’s Sustainable Leadership report will be published in three weeks’ time. The Current Reality chapter in that report deals comprehensively with the issue of workload and it details how the role of school leaders has expanded year on year, with tasks and responsibilities being added with each additional circular, information note or set of policy guidelines that issue.

The report also analyses the nature of these tasks and responsibilities and identifies into which of the domains of the quality framework for leadership and management (from DE Inspectorate publication Looking at Our Schools 2016) that each of these tasks fall. That analysis highlights a skewed focus on managing the organisation, necessitating a focus on tasks and responsibilities not aligned with our core purpose, which is leading teaching and learning, ensuring the provision of quality, inclusive learning experiences and delivering better outcomes for all children.

The Sustainable Leadership report explores what needs to happen to ensure that school leaders can maintain their focus on that core purpose and makes specific recommendations so that this can be achieved. We look forward to sharing the report and its recommendations with you in the coming weeks and to ensuring progress on the implementation of those recommendations. The aim is to ensure that you have the capacity, the time and the space to do the job you signed up to do.

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